The Author's Corner
Azrael Arynn K
TWPT: Do you recall when
it was that you first became aware of your spiritual nature? Was this because
of family influences or simply because deity was making itself known to you?
AK: My father was Roman Catholic, my mother was Episcopalian,
and I alternated Sundays at each church. Neither provided what I would call a
spiritual experience. As a child I had a glowing plastic Jesus on my windowsill
for awhile, and it freaked me out a little. Later I spent 12 years with the
My earliest spiritual experiences were as a child in
One night a white mare with wings appeared outside my window, floating in the dark branches of the oak tree, and that was my first clear introduction to the Goddess.
TWPT: Spirituality can lead in many different directions once it asserts itself in a person's life. What was it about Wicca that first attracted your attention and once you became aware of Wicca how did you proceed to learn about it?
AK: Wicca had everything I had been missing in a religious
faith: the Goddess, Nature as sacred, magick, freedom of thought without
ignoring the heart.
I connected with a teaching coven in
TWPT: Were there any
books you found or any local contacts that you made that were able to shed
some light on this path for you?
AK: Local contacts weren’t easy to find in those days, and I was very lucky to find TPW. The decent books available were by either Gerald Gardner, Sybil Leek, Leo Martello, and of course the two big ones that broke everything wide open, Starhawk’s Spiral Dance and Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon.
TWPT: Was writing something that was always a part of your life?
AK: Yes, when I was young I read voraciously, was always in
Honors English, joined the high school newspaper staff, and so on. When I was 18, my dream was to write books
and run an Arabian horse ranch.
TWPT: What is it about the written word that allows those who faithfully use it in personal exploration (i.e. journal writing) to understand so much more about themselves than those who don't use it?
AK: It’s a magickal process. We take experiences and symbolize
them with words. That makes the experience more powerful as well as changing
it, because of course experiences can’t really be captured or described that
way. But by choosing the words, we choose how to understand and integrate the
experiences, and we define ourselves through them. It’s transformative and
mystical. Naturally enough, people who don’t do this magick will have a
different understanding of who they are.
TWPT: When you started to undergo formal training in Wicca which culminated in your being initiated as a 3rd degree Wiccan Priestess was it something that you sought out diligently and how did you go about making contact with the group that trained you?
AK: As I mentioned, I got lucky finding a group. At the time
there was no Internet, and few Pagan festivals or newsletters etc. Most people
made contacts through the bulletin boards of “occult” bookstores.
Actually TPW had a 5-degree system based on the Elements,
and I reached the 4th degree (Air) before moving out of state. And I
was ordained in a separate ritual. I didn’t become a “traditional” 3rd
degree until later. But I was essentially hungry to learn, and wanted to go as
far as possible in any system of learning.
TWPT: When was it that you first thought to take your ideas and the knowledge that you had gained along the path and share it with others via books?
AK: I wrote my first booklet, Beginning True Magick, just a couple of years after entering the
Craft. It seemed to me that there were few books available that explained how
magick works in a clear and straightforward way, so I did this 32-page (?)
booklet, published it at the kitchen table so to speak. Llewellyn saw it and
asked for an expanded version, so I did True
Magick: A Beginner’s Guide.
TWPT: I've often wondered about authors who are also initiates as to how much thought has to go into the concept of whether the material they are sharing is more or less open or part of a their training that is covered by oaths of secrecy. With so much material being published in books these days how much information is still considered secret/oath bound in many covens or groups?
AK: At this stage, there is not a lot that is completely secret.
Many groups keep their initiation rituals secret and oathbound, and as a
general rule you don’t teach the Craft magicks firsthand to anyone who is
unworthy. So much had been published here or there—much of it with really lousy
or nonexistent ethics—that by the time I came along, it seemed the better part
of wisdom to put out a version that emphasized an ethical approach to magick.
TWPT: What was your first published book and what kind of reception did it receive upon its official release?
AK: True Magick, as
mentioned. I was a little surprised that it quickly became sort of a standard
textbook on many reading lists. Over 200,000 copies out there already.
TWPT: True Magick reached a milestone recently when you went back to it and created a 15th anniversary edition with revisions and new material. First off did you think that this book would still be in print and popular 15 years after it was initially published?
AK: Well, I was writing something that I hoped would be
timeless; it’s about magick, after all, which has been with our species for a
very long time—and isn’t going away.
TWPT: Looking at the
material 15 years later from a vantage point further along your path how do you
think that the book has held up in regards to the knowledge that you have
acquired since then?
AK: Most of the book held up really well. I think the essentials were sound. But of course I learned a lot over 15 years, especially in regard to the different styles and techniques that are possible with magick. Hence the new chapters on Intrinsic/Inner/Mind magick, and nature magick.
TWPT: How much revision and new material was added to this title in the 15th anniversary edition?
AK: I think it has 6 new chapters—some are reorganized—plus over
100 exercises and lots of recommended reading lists. The exercises make it much
more useful in mastering the skills of magick, rather than just learning about
theory. Plus I had to do some revision, like dropping the term “hermetic” and
using new terminology for the magicks I was trying to describe. Also the
chapter on healthy lifestyle sounded a little arrogant to me, in retrospect: 15
years on, I can’t say “get healthy” quite as blithely, because it really is a
lifelong struggle for many of us.
TWPT: You've worked with several organizations over the years. Tell me about your involvement with groups such as Circle, the Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess or COG. How has the work that you've done with these groups changed or evolved your conceptions of the Wiccan community at large?
AK: I’ve learned from all of them. I am grateful to Selena Fox
and the other Circle folk, to
The lessons I learned from each organization, positive and
negative, have helped me do a much better job with Ardantane than I might have
otherwise. Chiefly, they allowed me to network with many, many different Pagans
who all had their unique ways of walking this spiritual path, so that I could
appreciate our diversity and avoid the “
TWPT: Tell me about the writing of Covencraft. What were some of the goals that you wanted to achieve with the publication of this book? Does the writing of a book like this indicate your preference for practicing the Craft and if so what are your feelings on solitary practitioners?
AK: I wanted to make it easier for people to organize and run
effective covens. It’s that simple. Running a coven well is harder than it
looks, it’s a constantly changing work in progress and your creative
“materials” are people, endlessly complex and mysterious. So I thought some
guidelines, structures, and processes might help coven organizers and leaders.
And if covens became a little easier, the Craft could grow to its natural
extent with less trauma and frustration.
Does it indicate my preference? Well, mostly I like being
part of a coven very much, so yes. That doesn’t mean it’s
TWPT: Your most recent book that came out in August of 2006 and is called Ritual Craft. What can you tell me about why you wrote this book and what readers will find between the covers if they decide to pick up a copy?
AK: We wrote it as a companion to Covencraft, to be a broader,
deeper exploration of ritual than is generally available. There are lots of
good books on ritual out there, but most either focus on one tradition’s
approach or on one kind of ritual, such as sabbats or rites of passage. We
delve a lot into how ritual works, we visit an assortment of rituals from
around the world from
with the book Candlemas, Ritual Craft was co authored with your
partner Azrael Arynn K. How does the process differ when you are
writing a book with another author instead of just doing it
AK: It’s about time you mentioned Azrael. She is a full partner
in the writing process, and the books are as good as they are because she’s co-writing
The process is very, very different when two people write a
book, unless you just divvy up chapters. We don’t do that. Usually I outline,
she fleshes it out, I revise, she revises, I add, she edits and proofs and
polishes. Throughout the process, we talk: bouncing alternatives around,
springboarding from each others ideas, co-creating. The final result is richer
and deeper than if one of us wrote alone.
Then, of course, we lean on half a dozen friends to read and
review the manuscript, and we incorporate lots of their suggestions. That’s
before it ever goes to the publisher, who will have more ideas on top of all
TWPT: During the writing of Ritual Craft were your views pretty much in line with Azrael's views of where the book should go and what information it should cover?
AK: Yes. We’re very much in synch on most magickal and Pagan
topics. On the few occasions where we seem to differ, we can always work it out
with a few minutes’ discussion.
TWPT: As an author with several books under her belt what have you learned about yourself and the writing process over the years? Has it gotten easier to visualize a project at the beginning, know where you'd like it to go and then organize your thoughts so that it proceeds smoothly from beginning to end?
AK: I’m continually amazed at the power, flexibility, and
imprecision of the written word. With these few basic building blocks—well, a
few thousand—we can create a silly poem, the lyrics to battle hymn, a how-to
book on building a patio, a dark and exciting thriller, or a spiritually
uplifting message. It’s like the genes in a strand of DNA: you can grow a
rhinoceros or a poodle.
It’s easier to organize books with practice, that’s true.
But other parts just get more challenging. Because our mental horizons expand,
along with our knowledge base and ability to make connections, focusing a book
and narrowing the theme can be difficult. There’s a tendency to keep seeing
links and adding material until you’re writing The Book of All Things instead
of a book on magick or whatever.
Plus, I demand more of myself. I suspect it’s the same with
Azrael. We keep setting the bar higher in terms of quality, depth, and clarity.
So it’s never easy.
TWPT: What is it that
you want to accomplish with each new book that you write? Are the books written
from a desire to clarify your own thoughts in words or are you motivated by
helping others to find solid information about the path that they are on?
AK: Yes, all of the above and more. It’s to help ourselves keep learning. It’s the creative challenge. It’s for service to the Goddess, the old Gods, and the Pagan community. It’s a little bit for the ego-boo: “I’m An Author, wow, just like Hemingway and Snoopy.” And then there’s the distant, absurd fantasy that someday we might be able to support ourselves by writing books. Not all the motives are noble and selfless, but a couple actually are.
TWPT: Do you spend time out on the road teaching or doing workshops at different events around the country? What do you get out of these appearances and what do you hope those who come to your workshops get from having been there?
AK: Road trip! Oh yeah. We love traveling and teaching. We hit
some of the same festivals every year, and then others as time and money
We learn from our students, and it’s great to talk with
people from different regions and traditions. So it’s always educational for
us. And we learn new ways to enhance learning; we take teaching very seriously
as a profession, and are always looking for ways to improve our skills.
I hope our students leave with a couple of really good,
powerful insights or skills they can use to make their lives better--and move
along their spiritual paths with more grace and joy. I hope they’ve felt
community with everyone who is sharing the experience. I hope they’ve had fun.
I hope their horizons are a little wider, and that they glimpse wonderful
things at the far limits of their vision.
TWPT: Tell me about Our Lady of the Woods and the Ladywood Tradition of Wicca that you are a founder of.
AK: OLW is our home coven; it began in
It’s different enough from
TWPT: You are currently
involved with Ardantane a Wiccan/Pagan seminary located in
AK: Ardantane’s mission is to “provide superb learning
experiences for the Pagan community and those who hold the Earth sacred.” In short, we’re out to
provide and promote the best quality of education on Pagan subjects that can be
found anywhere. We train priestesses and priests, healers, shamans, magicians,
and anyone who wants to live life in a more sacred manner.
Our campus in
TWPT: Is the curriculum tradition specific for the courses that are taught there or more generic so as to apply to the greatest number of students and how they might eventually practice?
AK: We are for all traditions that honor the Earth. Occasionally
we might have a program specific to one tradition—for example, inviting an
Aztec shaman to teach—but mostly we teach skills, knowledge, and perceptions
that work in any Pagan tradition.
To keep our program diverse, we have a requirement that the
Board of Directors have at least four different traditions represented on it at
any time. That helps keep us from getting narrow.
TWPT: Tell me about your faculty and the backgrounds that they bring to the school.
AK: We have permanent, accredited faculty; teaching assistants
and co-teachers who are not yet accredited; and guest teachers or speakers. The
core includes me and Azrael; a Saami shaman who is also trained in Wicca and
Druidry; a naturopathic doctor; an environmental scientist who is studying
traditional Pawnee ways; an astronomer who is also a Wiccan High Priest; and
more. Quite a lovely crew. In addition, we bring in authors, shamans, you name
TWPT: How would you evaluate the effectiveness of the school so far and what would you like to change about the school in the coming years?
AK: We’re learning as we go, and there have been mistakes as
well as triumphs. On the whole I’m very proud at what we’ve accomplished in the
past five years especially: when we bought the land for the campus, everything
moved on to the fast track. Now we have the beginnings of a campus and
five—soon six—very cooperative, creative schools within Ardantane. (They are:
Healing Arts, Magical Arts and Witchcraft, Shamanic Studies, Pagan Leadership,
Pagan Spirituality, and soon Sacred Living.)
In the years to come, we’ll have an eco-friendly,
state-of-the-art campus; long-term residential facilities for students and
staff; more traveling and distance-learning programs; extensive archives;
magickal research programs; stronger ties with other schools, colleges, and
universities; and of course a world-class quidditch team.
TWPT: Finally do you have any thoughts you'd like to share with those readers who have been faithfully reading your books since you first started writing them?
AK: I’m very happy that you like what Azrael and I have written.
Because of you, we’ll keep writing, and doing our level best to make each book
excellent. And please feel free to write to us (c/o Ardantane,
Thou art Goddess. Thou art God. Blesséd be!