The blue fire
I’m re-reading an excellent book, Evolutionary Witchcraft by Thorn Coyle. I would like to follow on with her second book, Kissing the Limitless, which I’ve never quite got through, and go on to her third nonfiction book, Making Magic of Your Life. I hear she has a novel out, too.
In Evolutionary Witchcraft, Thorn lays out what you might call an Outer Court form of the Feri Tradition in which she trained with Victor and Cora Anderson. Feri Witchcraft, or Faery Witchcraft–different schools of practice use different spellings–has always been a notoriously secretive yet weirdly public tradition. Secretive, because for many years it was taught only one-to-one, and unlike Wicca, it had no set liturgies for everyone to follow that could be stolen or plagiarized and published in print or online. Public, because Starhawk‘s early training included studying with the Andersons, and there are imprints of Feri/Faery all over The Spiral Dance, as well as her later books. Some of the Faery teachings were incorporated into Reclaiming, the witchcraft tradition/movement that Starhawk co-founded, of which Thorn Coyle is also a part.
Thorn is an excellent writer, poetic yet never vague. Starhawk was the first, I think, to quote Victor Anderson on the topic of black magic vs. white magic: “White magic is poetry, black magic is anything that actually works.” Both Thorn and Starhawk weave both black and white magic, then, in their writing, because their books are poetry that actually work; to read them and try to put into practice any of what they say is to be changed. If, to haul out another famous quote, magic is the art of changing consciousness at will, Thorn and Starhawk are masters of it.
I have never felt comfortable calling myself a witch, and I still don’t. I certainly don’t fit the witchy mold of making herbal charms, weaving spells with yarn and feathers (though I’ve got plenty of feathers on hand), dancing fearlessly in the moonlight. I’ve talked about my stupidity with Tarot and similar forms of divination. The fact remains, however, that my first introduction to paganism, to what would lead me eventually to the worship of the gods, was The Spiral Dance; my first understanding of paganism and magic beyond books on mythology, comparative religion, and the history of occultism was that Faery fire, the blue flame, elusive and mystical yet also erotic. Before I read about Gardner, Valiente, or Cochrane, before I discovered there were Egyptian, Greek, and Norse pagans in Drawing Down the Moon, that fey, queer, activist, ecofeminist, egalitarian Craft of the Wise captured my imagination. The blue flame was lit in a corner of my heart, and I don’t think it has ever left.