Antinous for Everybody

I worship a dead gay teenager and you can too

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.

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5 thoughts on “The blue fire

  1. M.A. Rivera on said:

    My first exposure to Faery/Feri was in my early teens via a bunch of stuff I’d printed! (I actually didn’t know this until years later cause what the info I had at the time didn’t credit the source.) Years later when I sort of learned about it, I that it held a certain appeal/resonance and I tried to find ‘Evolutionary Witchcraft’ but it was out of print (or something?). I never got around to reading it however I did find a like-new used copy of ‘Kissing the Limitless’. I’ve yet to work through all of it for many reasons (e.g. some techniques have to be ‘translated’ into my/one’s own framework) but I consider it a pretty solid book. Anyway, I think Faery/Feri is some pretty potent stuff and quite different from a lot of stuff out there.

    P.S. You probably know this but not all witches ‘dance fearlessly under the moon’ or ‘do’ tarot, just for starters 🙂 . Who knows, maybe you’re a kitchen witch (or some other creature)? Some witches work with, say, elder and mandrake, others with…oregano and rosemary. There’s still magic there even if it’s of a different kind.

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    • I confess I was thinking mostly of witches who live on the covers of Llewellyn books, rather than of witches I actually know. *g*

      Talking of oregano and rosemary, I am not much of a cook, either. Maybe I should call myself a word witch, although a cockatiel makes an unusual familiar….

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  2. I have the three T. Thorn Coyle books you mentioned, but have only read the latter two; I started Evolutionary Witchcraft in ’10 when I was in Michigan, I think, but never came back to it. I like Kissing the Limitless, and I wrote a review of Make Magic of Your Life that was supposed to be at Patheos, but the editor at the time cut a big portion of it, so I printed the whole review on my own blog (and that’s when my doubts about Patheos really began, incidentally).

    There seem to be a fair few Antinoans who are also into Feri–either previously, or are getting into it now, like a certain liturgical drag enthusiast we mentioned recently. 😉 I don’t know what it is about it that seems to be compatible, but there you go…

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    • I think the compatibility lies in the queerness of Feri, myself. You don’t get any talk about gender-essentialist polarities, and I’ve seen Feri described as a religion of ecstasy rather than fertility. Thorn has a good bit to say about that in the first couple chapters of Evolutionary Witchcraft. Plus, Feri has multiple gods specific to the tradition and room for as many more as you like, so it goes better with polytheism than Wicca does. That’s my take on it.

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