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The Author's Corner

 



Amber K

Visit Amber K's website

Azrael Arynn K

 

RitualCraft:
Creating Rites for
Transformation and Celebration

 

Candlemas:
Feast of Flames

 

True Magick:
A Beginner's Guide

 

Coven Craft:
Witchcraft for Three or More

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RitualCraft:
TWPT Talks to Amber K

©2007TWPT


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 Unitarians, seeking. 

My earliest spiritual experiences were as a child inIllinois. We had a huge old grandmother willow in the from yard, and I used to spend time among her branches. My second-floor bedroom window looked into the branches of a big oak tree in our back yard, and there was a whole leafy world there just a few feet from my bed. Both trees were places of Spirit far more than the churches ever were. 

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 inChicago, Temple of thePagan Way, at my first Pagan festival. They had a well-organized system of classes and degrees, and I was hooked. 

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, toJade River and the women of RCG, and to all the COG folk. They are all pioneers, standing in the sunlight and saying “We are here and have a right to be here.” 

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 “One True Way” trap. 

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
“The Right Way” as contrasted to solitary practice. There are people who are solitary because they have to be—i.e., can’t find a group that works for them—and there are people who work solitary because that’s what their spiritual growth requires. And there are people who are not part of covens, but are very active in the Pagan community. The important thing is not whether you’re a coven member or a solitary, it’s whether you are accomplishing what you need to spiritually. 

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 fromNew Mexico to Arabia toAfrica, and we provide a lot of tools to create your own. There’s very little recipe-book stuff in it. It is for readers who are serious about creating life-changing ritual experiences. 

TWPT:  As 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 yourself?  

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 them. 

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 that. 

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 permit. 

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 inWisconsin, thrived for a few years, ebbed, and then was reborn inNew Mexico. Its motto is “Teaching Wicca—Healing the Earth.” Much of its program is based on thePagan Way tradition, which started as a Gardnerian outer-court program. It’s eclectic and creative, and very open and public, though individual members don’t have to be. 

It’s different enough fromPagan Way that we declared it to be a new tradition—Ladywood—and we’ve had a few hivings. It’s still small, just a handful of covens, because we’re not much interested in numbers and don’t have anything like a “degree mill.” You can count the number of Ladywood thirds on your fingers.

TWPT:  You are currently involved with Ardantane a Wiccan/Pagan seminary located inNew Mexico. What is it that you want to achieve through Ardantane and the education that you provide there?

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 inNew Mexico is our main lab, but we teach in other cities, share materials and ideas, and hope to catalyze more and better Pagan learning programs all over the country and the world. 

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 it. 

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,P.O. Box 307.Jemez Springs NM 87025). We can’t answer all the letters, but you can be certain we’ll read what you have to say, and it might well change or enhance the next book. 

Thou art Goddess. Thou art God. Blesséd be!