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This was my final working draft of an article to be edited and added to by Helix for publication on the Anderson Faery website.  The final version can be read there, and I encourage you click that link.

———-draft —————-

so you want to learn faery, but you can’t find a teacher?

Faery/Feri is an ecstatic tradition of witchcraft.  That means it’s an embodied tradition, it’s also a lineage passed physically.  By its very nature it requires in-person transmittal. But many of us, for various reasons, will never live near an initiate or be able to travel to visit one.  What do we do if this flavor of the craft speaks to us and we find ourselves without access to a teacher?

The first big thing we must do is let go of expectation. A sure way to get ourselves into the weeds is by trying to compel something to happen.  To learn any esoteric system, but especially one that is left-hand, a trustworthy, responsible teacher with integrity is paramount. If you try to force your access to a teacher you will end up settling for any situation.  That would be a bad and potentially dangerous idea. So, just take a deep breath and let it go. Let go of your expectation around Anderson Faery. Let’s do it together. Ready? Deep breath…and let go. Now let’s chat about some things you *can* do.

A key tenant of Anderson Faery is the divine nature of the human self in its multi-part form.  The self can be developed and explored through many systems and practices. This is not dependent on Faery.  Start here. Begin the task of self-reflection, personal development and resiliency training. You might find an established meditation group nearby, search for a good therapist to explore with, or ask like-minded friends to form a regular sitting group with you.  There are many resources available for personal growth. A healthy, balanced Self is the cornerstone for any human, Faery witch or otherwise.

Another foundational practice within Anderson Faery is the dismantling of cultural world-view and the intentional cultivation of an enchanted worldview.  A good way to go about this is through study. There are several good books available that will help you begin to see a little more sideways, and question aspects of culture you may not hitherto have done.  A list of reading material that might be helpful is below. Don’t rush these books. Instead go slowly, contemplatively, making notes as thoughts arise. It’s by spending time with mind expanding concepts that transformation occurs.  Maybe that sitting group you formed could read through these together?

  • The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a more-than-human world by David Abram
  • Dancing in the Streets: a history of collective joy by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Joy Diet: Ten daily practices for a happier life by Martha Beck
  • Radical Acceptance: Embracing your life with the heart of a buddha by Tara Brach
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, mind and Body in the healing of trauma by Bessell van der Kolk
  • Sapiens, a brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Reenchantment of the World by Morris Berman

Like many ecstatic traditions, Anderson Faery has a strong thread of Ancestral veneration.  We stand on the shoulders of giants. Whether you have a nurturing or harmful relationship with ancestors of blood, their genetic heritage is still yours.  The work of a witch is to explore those threads, heal them so He Hirself is healed, and strengthen their resiliency for the benefit of our descendants. Yet this is not purely imaginal. If you aren’t up to date on the new science of heritability, you might look at It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are And How To End The Cycle by Mark Wolynn.  A practical first step in this process is to create a dedicated space for ancestral offerings. This can be as simple as a clean surface with a little cup for water. Pour fresh water in the cup, and say a little blessing over it, such as, “May my ancestors be blessed, may my descendents be blessed.” There is more elaborate and complex work that can be done but this small step will take you far.

If this all sounds very heady thus far, it has been.  An educated witch is a prepared witch, but the body is included in that. Get out of your box – out of your car, your room, your apartment, your house  – and get your feet, limbs, elbows in the grass. Explore the land around you. This may be a city park, a strip of wild grasses along a curb, or rambling lanes in the deep countryside.  You don’t need to do anything out there, just observe. Be polite, and pick up rubbish if you see it. Say hello to other living beings you meet – in your out loud voice. Witches are uncannily quirky, and psychic, but we rarely read each other’s minds, so don’t expect other-than-human persons (big or small) to read yours.  

Observe the clouds and the winds where you live. Which direction do they predominantly blow from? What does the wind from those different directions feel like on your skin, what sensations do you get, is there a taste?  Write this all down, or make art about it. Record your observations in some way. It doesn’t have to be with words. It can be with movement, poetry, painting, clay or music.  Continue these observations for other living beings, like animals, rivers, birds, insects, trees, flowers.  Be polite, say hello, pick-up rubbish (as an offering) and spend time with them. You’d be surprised at the strong friendships you build by just showing up and sitting with someone, whether they are human or not.

Speaking of art, explore yours.  How do you express your creativity?  Do you move your body, perhaps through ecstatic dance, yoga, line-dancing or ballet?  Do you paint, draw, sew or knit? Dedicate time to the cultivation and expression of your creativity.  This is life force, and Anderson Faery focuses strongly on feeding and expressing this part of our Self. You don’t need to spend money on this pursuit, but it should be something you create a regular practice around.  Allowing our creative expression to flow keeps our channels open and clear.

So does healthy sexuality.  This is a sex positive tradition because Sex is Life.  Not for procreative purposes but for pleasure. We value pleasure.  We value personal responsibility. We value knowing and owning our choices, behavior, and actions.  Hopefully part of your study on dismantling worldview has led you to question cultural norms around sexuality, and to ask yourself what your own inherent views are.  What is your sexuality and how can you nurture it and express it in healthy responsible ways? Another simple practice for exploring sexuality in its many subtle forms is to take a bath or shower and feel the water moving over your skin. Simple huh?  But really experience it. What does the water trickling over your ankle bone feel like, or the small of your back, or your shoulder? Try laying on the ground under the full sun. Spread your body out, expose a bit of skin, and feel the rays of the sun absorbing into the flesh of your bicep, your thigh, your stomach.  The fleshy parts.

You might not know it, but you have just learned some of the mysteries of Anderson Faery.  Hold them with care, cherish them, and let them unfold in your life.

May it be so.

 

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During a recent conversation I said that the Anderson Faery/Feri lineage of witchcraft is helpful for trauma survivors  because it is an embodied lineage with a focus on ecstatic experience – all things that steer us out of over intellectualizing and into body awareness – but only insofar as we work to heal our trauma, else it will retraumatize us.  I’ve been pondering that statement ever since, because while I feel it to be true I have never upacked it.  I’m going to try and do that a bit here.

What is trauma, and what does it mean to be retraumatized?  We often think of trauma as tied to emotional, physical or sexual abuse, war, or natural disasters, but there are a whole range of life experiences that can be traumatizing, like surgery, the loss of a loved one, etc.  Trauma happens when our nervous system is overwhelmed and our coping strategies don’t work.  If the trauma is not processed or if we aren’t able to fight, flee, or in some way manage what is “attacking” us, then we freeze in a way that the unprocessed fear gets locked into our body.

A way some of us deal with the trauma locked in our body is by dissociating –  we try to get away from our body, and thus the traumatic situation — but other expressions of trauma are anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, avoidant behaviors, and addiction.  These expressions of trauma are almost always enveloped by  a sense of shame.  Something happens, we get traumatized and we cope the best we can, then hate ourselves for it because it doesn’t look or feel good.  It’s the shame that binds the entire process together.

Effects of early trauma are a laundry list:  a disrupted sense of self in relation to others, emotional instability, social dysfunction, difficulty recovering from stress, disorganized thinking, a limited window of tolerance, a limited capacity for relationships, poor impulse control, low self-worth, core shame, inability to recognize one’s own needs, a sense of isolation…. Oh, so much!  And oh so many of the very reasons we seek out spirituality, even witchcraft; we are searching for healing.

If that search leads a person to the Anderson Faery/Feri lineage of witchcraft before therapeutic work with a qualified therapist has been done to address past trauma the very tools of the tradition could be dangerously retraumatizing.  In this lineage we are asked to be present in our bodies, to be fully present for Sex, Self, Passion, Pride and Power.  Meditators are now realizing that mindfulness meditation is retraumatizing for the same reason; in mindfulness practice we are asked to be present with the feelings and sensations of the body.  If we have unprocessed trauma fear locked in our body, our own breath and body awareness can be jarring, flooding us and popping us right out of the body.  We feel the trauma all over again and dissociate.  In fact, we will happily watch our body sit and breathe on the cushion – we are well used to dissociating –  thinking we are engaged with the practice, when in actuality we are not experiencing embodiment at all.

Retraumatization is a conscious or unconscious reminder of past trauma that results in re-experiencing of the initial trauma itself.   It can be triggered by a situation, an attitude or expression, or by certain environments that replicate the dynamics (loss of power/control/safety) of the original trauma. – by Patricia Shelly, MSW, Shelley Hitzel, MSW, and Karen Zgoda, MSW, LCSW, Preventing Retraumatization: A Macro Social Work Approach to Trauma-Informed Practices & Policies

For those of us who dissociate, clearing the mind and entering stillness is a familiar state of numbness.  It can be a blissful state, and hard to distinguish from altered states of consciousness.  Yet, it is not the mindfulness taught in yoga, and it is not the embodiment required to engage Faery witchcraft safely.  Embodiment is the beginning and foundation for more advanced practices in Faery.

Dissociation vs presence?
Table
Meditation instructors and health care professionals who work with trauma survivors are taught to use trauma informed practices which focus on a sense of safety and stabilization (it is not in most of our scope of practice to offer trauma-specific work that focuses on processing trauma).  One thing Faery witchcraft is not is safe, and its tools are notoriously destabilizing.  Some do survive the crash course of a Faery induced healing crisis, others do not.  With so many qualified therapists who specialize in integrating trauma, and so many excellent protocols, like EMDR, there is no reason to risk a student, or risk ourselves.

If you are drawn to Faery, but come from a trauma background, seek out a skilled EMDR therapist first.  Give yourself a year of calming the central nervous system and finding safety within your body.  You will be grateful you did.

*I am not a professional therapist.  My insights come from my own experience and what I have found effective. 

incantation

Incantation; Francisco Goya

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This working requires a sacrifice. Give to a local group engaged in the work of social justice, either by volunteering or by supporting them financially.

Call upon your Mighty Dead to support the work.

Acquire an image of the Lady of Liberty to place on your working altar. This can be in a public place, like your work place.

Offer the litany to her regularly, and any other offerings you feel called to give.

LITANY OF FREEDOM

Liberty, Lady, Mother of Redemption;
Mother of Exiles;
Mother of Eagles;
To you and, through you, to the Dark Mother of the Heavens and the Earth…

Come to me

We ask for the light of your lamp to heal us and fill our hearts with grace.
Let there be freedom,

Come to me

Let our sisters be free to live safely, in public and in private!
Let our sisters be free to choose what happens to their own bodies!
Let our sisters and brothers of color be free to live in dignity and respect!

Come to me

Let our Trans brothers and sisters be free to live authentically!
Let our gay and bi sisters and brothers be free to live authentically!
Let our gay and bi sisters and brothers be free to love openly whomever their hearts are drawn to!

Come to me

Let our sisters and brothers of indigenous birth be free to live in peace and health upon their ancestral and sacred lands!
Let us all be free to speak and create and express as Spirit moves us!
Let us all be free to enjoy the fruits of prosperity and our own labor and right livelihood!

Come to me

Let us all be free to enjoy and honor clean soil, water and air!
Let us all be free to live in peace!

Come to me

Let us all be free to honor and be honored because, and not despite of, our respectful differences!
Let us all be free to unite for our common well being!

Come to me

Let us all be free to join together in resistance to those who would abuse us!
Let us be free to follow the path of beauty and bliss!
Let us all be free of the fears that bind us from our deepest aspirations!
Let us all be free from deception and oppression, and the systems that support them!
Let us be free of the chains even in our own minds and hearts!

Come to me

Let us be free to build anew and better for ourselves and our communities!
Let us be free to speak truth to power!

Come to me

Lady, By your crown,
let those who would abuse us or our loved ones be stripped of their claims to power!

By your lamp,
bring their words and deeds to light, and to the notice of the world!

By your book,
never allow the misdeeds of tyrants to be forgotten, nor the lessons of history fail to inform present events!

Let us be free

Consider placing her image upon the words of her poem:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

You can add the creation of a (resealable)cursing bottle, filled with images of the appropriate politicians and organizations, and inscribed with this three part curse on the back:

“May God abandon you ; May knowledge forsake you ; May apathy claim you”

as well as thorns, needles, broken glass, and every manner of vile thing like rotting muck, poppy seeds, ghost peppers, what have you. Piss in it. Then drown it in liquor, and pour your own rage into it. Scream at it. Make them want to die. Work yourself into a frenzy. It might help to be drunk, or to pour your fury and frustration into a cup before the pouring that in the bottle. Then recap and seal it with wax and place it on the altar or hide it away somewhere. If the proverbial shit ever does really hit the fan, take it back out and work yourself into a frenzy again. Shake it and scream at it and name the afflictions you place upon them, focusing on things that will actually make things better and make them unable to carry out their atrocities. Then hurl it and cause it to shatter on an appropriate target, like a federal building, or bury it somewhere likewise appropriate.

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the Urban Hedge

Living in Ireland is one thing, living in an American city quite another.  I find city magic different from the magic of the countryside.  I also find central Texas magic different from southern Irish magic.  This is common sense really, as there are different partners in the work.

The energy of the American city  I live within is one of motion, and literal energy generation.  Perhaps it is more like a stellar nursery, or star-forming region: a dense area of exotic cosmic brew.

I don’t work with the entire city.  I build relationship with the area I can –and regularly do– walk the bounds of.  Boundary walking, and tending, is the age-old habit of the witch.  It’s where we draw our power.  During the liminal times of day, it is easy to find the urban Hedge.  Within my own bounds, those are odd crossroads, where odd numbers of pathways or streets intersect.  Also, the alleyways.

In any Hedge crossing endeavor, caution is needed.  Persons of dubious nature are attracted to liminal spaces, and times.  Do not trust every Person you meet, corporeal or not!  Victor H. Anderson cautioned his students to make such journeys with their Lights on.  That is, have a strong and direct relationship with your own Godsoul, the ancestral spirit directly connected to you.

Also, test the spirits.

Just because some non-material dude chats you up, doesn’t mean you should give him your number.

During urban hedge crossing, I do not sit and trance.  I walk.  This is a skill I developed working with the Reclaiming Pagan Cluster, and learning to use my magic during direct action protest.  I also carry a protective talisman in my pocket, or on my person.  I set an intention, whether that be exploratory or specific.  These forays are not for entertainment.  They are for the purpose of accomplishing my will, and my work.

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The danger in possession is if you let alien beings in to use you — and there are plenty out there that will. They’ll split your personality. They’ll touch certain parts of your personality that you don’t even know you have. And then, you won’t be able to consciously remember when one takes over or when one doesn’t, even though it’s all you. That’s the danger of possession. Another danger is that they can come in with cruel and terrible ideas and infect you with them. Because when someone knocks at your door, and I’m not just speaking about spirits, don’t let them in unless you know who they are. You turn on the light first and that light is right above your head. — Victor Anderson, The Heart of the Initiate: Feri Lessons

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I  am an initiate and abiding student of the Faery Tradition of witchcraft (also known as Feri), which was passed through Victor and Cora Anderson.  This tradition is a beautiful, and uniquely American, order of Old Craft.  There are many things I feel and believe about my practice of Faery witchcraft, and I do not speak much publicly about those.  However, I want to express a few things I feel are important, and make them available publicly in the event they prove helpful to someone seeking out this tradition.

1.  There is no ‘one’ way of practicing Faery.  There really aren’t any agreed upon ‘core’ beliefs or practices within the tradition.  The only fundamental and congruous element is the unique Faery Current.  However, having said that, each initiate has a very specific way of working and practicing, and anyone studying with an initiate will first learn their way of practice, just like the old apprentice model.

2.  The majority of Faery initiates teach for free, in a rather old school ‘in-person’ way, or at least more one-on-one. There are a handful of very public initiates who teach according to a large classroom model, some of whom teach via the internet and charge a fee. [Edit: There are, within the handful of more public initiates, those who teach fewer students, using various methods, and charge a fee.]  But most initiates within the tradition are more private, and take students as they meet them, or not at all.

3.  Since the fundamental thread of the tradition is built around a living current, in-person contact with an initiate is paramount.  My one and only advice to anyone interested in this tradition of witchcraft is to ASK, ask, ASK if an initiate lives anywhere near you and contact them directly, or indirectly (through an initiate willing to make introductions) if they are private.

4.  There are now Feri initiates located all over the world.  If you have heard of this wild, queer, androgynous, non-degree system of witchcraft, and are drawn to it, I suggest you ASK, ask, ASK until you find an initiate close enough to your location to visit in person, and contact them. [Edit: Since the majority of initiates are private, you won’t be able to find them doing a google search.  You will need to ask around.  You can even email a more public initiate and ask them to introduce you to an initiate living closer to your area.  We initiates have ways of contacting each other.]

Luminous : Æ

Luminous : Æ

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Professor Fergus Kelly’s (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) presentation on Early Irish Charms for Animals came with an extensive reference handout.  Because the two keynote speakers had run over time, Prof. Kelly sped through his offering.  I would have enjoyed hearing more from this distinguished scholar, but I am thankful to have his list of sources.

The thrust of the presentation concerned the narrative of a hunter-gatherer people, transitioning and transitioned to a life dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry.  Where once the herd animals had been robust in size and number, with domestication, their physical size and numbers were reduced.  This necessarily increased concern over disease, which was directly linked to domestication.

This new concern can be seen in the highly significant burden placed upon local Kings, which tied the health of the land and animal population to the King’s justice, as well as the compensation an animal healer was entitled to, as outlined in the law tracts (1/4 of the wound price).  It is from this concern that the use of animal charms arises.

Language of the Literary Sources:

Seirthech, a disese of horses (seir ‘heel, hock’)

Sinech, a disease of cattle, perhaps ‘cow-pox’ (sine, ‘teat’)

Conach ‘rabies’ (disease affecting dogs, cattle, pigs, poultry, etc.), derivative of cú, con ‘dog’

Liaig ‘animal doctor’

gono míl, orgo míl, marbu míl  “I would the worm, I strike the worm, I kill the worm”

Milliud ‘destruction, bewitching’

mart leicter la sruth .i. ar g(l)einntlecht leicter ‘an animal which was swept away in a stream, i.e. it is swept away by sorcery with g(l)einntlecht being associated with paganism

mimir do cor do coin ‘giving a bad morsel to a dog’; froma uptha dus inbud amainsi: lethdiri ind, uair ni fo fath narbtha .i. fromad felmais .i. fromad na pisoc, anfot indethbiri he ‘trying out the spell to find out whether it is magic: half penalty-fine for that, because it is not with the intention of killing, i.e. trying out a magic spell i.e. testing the charms, and that is culpable inadvertence’

amainse ‘magic’

felmas ‘spell’

pisóc ‘charm’

Other Charms

There was mention of the use of charms, in general, with an interesting note concerning marriage.

bean dia tabair a ceile upta oca guide co mbeir for druis “a wife whose husband gives her love charms while wooing her so that he brings her to lust” is entitled to a divorce, and to keep her bride price!

Corrguine(ch) ‘crane / heron-slayer, sorcerer’ could be one who practices the crane stance, etc.

Herbs in Charms

An incredibly interesting portion of the talk skimmed over the different uses of herbs, specifically, that each class used a different herb for the same problem.  There is an indication that certain plants were only used for the noble class, etc.

Ar ni inun cosc sair [] dair [] leth[s]air: ‘for the prevention of [the evil eye from ?] the noble and base and half-noble is not the same’

Tri losa atheclthar and: righlus [] tarblus [] aitheclus: righlus do righaibh guna comhgradhaibh [] tarblus do gradhaibh flatha, aitheclus do gradaib deine “Three herbs are recognised here: royal herb and bull herb and plebeian herb: royal herb for kings and those of equal rank with them, bull herb for the grades of lord, and plebeian herb for the grades of commoner’

Time, and it’s connection with Charms

Another topic, which could have received its own treatment, was the notion that time mattered: that when you plucked or cut an herb was associated with status, of the herb and the person it was to be used on.

is ed dleghar a buain ‘maseach [] in lus resa[rai]ter is ed dleghar a buain cach nuairi do ‘it should be plucked in turn and the herb which is said [to correspond to his rank ?] is that which should be plucked every time for him’

[] is airi danither sen mada teccmadh a athair do gradhaibh flatha [] a mathair do gradhaibh feine ‘and it is for that reason that that is done, if his father should belong to the grades of lord, and his mother to the grades of commoner’

Agricultural Year ?

Prof. Kelly mentioned the lack of information present in early Irish MS regarding cereal crops.  He indicated that the climate here was never fit for them, and even the more hearty barley can be a struggle.  It is interesting to me that there should be a lack of literary reference to cereal crops in the early period, when they seem to overshadow the current practitioner (pagan) mindset of an agricultural (harvest based) year.  It puts me in mind of the theory espoused by Barry Cuncliffe of the university of Oxford and Social anthropologist Lionel Sims, that the transition to agriculture from a hunter-gather way of life was motivated by a reduction in large game after the last ice-age, and that turning to stationary lifestyles which required more intensive periods of work, and dependence on climate, was resisted.  This subject needs further practitioner (pagan) scholarship, if it has not already been done. 

A modern festival which I had read about previously was mentioned: Féil na nairemon ‘the festival of the ploughmen’  Prof Kelly indicated that this festival took place in mid June, when the crops had reached full growth, after 3 months of tending.

Additional Time related activities mentioned by audience members:

At Bealtaine – hawthorn was collected after sunset, placed on house before sunrise.

Vervaine is only collected when Sirius is rising, which is sometime in July.

Roots are collected after the November full moon.

Sources:

The majority of Irish texts cited are from Corpus iuris hibernici  (Dublin 1978)  D.A. Binchy

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