Talks to Anna Franklin
TWPT: Tell me about your introduction to the Old Ways and some of those folks that you met in the beginning who had the same feelings as you did about Paganism?
AF: Though I have always been conscious of nature spirits, and have always been drawn to the old gods, I was not brought up as a Pagan. My adopted family was Roman Catholic and sent me to a convent school to be educated by nuns. There I felt lonely and out of place, but I devoured the classical library, reading of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, and when I prayed, I prayed to golden Aphrodite, or wise Athene. They seemed much more
real and immediate to me than the jealous god I was supposed to believe in. I saw creatures in the woodland no one else could see, and found pleasure in lonely places with the wild creatures. My family said I was mad, and the nuns said I was damned. Then when I was eighteen I found other people who felt the same way as me- they were called witches. My first coven was a Gardnerian group, run by a lovely woman called Julia Isobel Reed, and it was she who introduced me to our native Brythonic [British] Celtic deities.
I was excited to be admitted to the seasonal rituals, to the esbats and other workings.
TWPT: Where did someone go in the UK at that point in time to pursue this interest and to meet even more people of like mind and to potentially make contact with existing covens?
AF: In those days [the early seventies] there were no witches advertising in magazines and shop windows. Coven members were hand picked from those who attended talks and meetings on occult subjects. You didn't apply to join- you had to be invited!
TWPT: Were there any Pagan or Craft books that you can remember that made a strong impression on you as you began your studies?
AF: The works of Robert Graves, such as 'The White Goddess' and 'The Greek Myths' were an early influence on my studies, along with Professor Margaret Murray's books, especially 'The Witch Cult in Western Europe', an investigation into historical witchcraft through history. Though her findings are a matter of dispute today, her books influenced several generations of witches.
TWPT: Looking over your website I see that you have been involved with several covens over the years. What are your feelings about working with covens as opposed to working as a solitary?
AF: I think both methods of working are valid, but there is no feeling as wonderful as sharing a transformative magical experience with your brothers and sisters of the Craft.
I think too, that ten people can raise more power than one. However, if this is to happen, then those people must all be able to work together like clockwork, and be able to attain the same level of consciousness at the same time. This takes years of training and working together, which is why so many people find that their experience of working ritual in a coven is rather disappointing and they find that they achieve better results alone.
TWPT: Having belonged to and worked with so many covens and groups how would you describe the feeling of community among Wiccans and Pagans in the UK? Do you think that even among those who practice as solitaries that there is a feeling that they belong to a wider community than what was evident to those who were practicing 10 or 20 years ago?
AF: I don't think that I am going to say what you expect here. During the 1980s a wave of optimism spread over UK Pagans. It was then that many people 'came out of the broom closet' and admitted that they were Pagans or witches. There was a lot of talk about 'weaving the web' or forging a network of Pagans. People spoke of 'waking the dragon' or invoking the energy and power of the land itself, to flood Britain with magical energy. However,
the 1990s saw a lot of disillusion, when people who had joined covens they saw advertised had discovered that the so called high priestess knew no more about it than themselves. Dilettantes thought that they could wield magic with no commitment to training and receive enlightenment without self-knowledge or self- discipline. A crash was inevitable, and many old traditional groups who had come out of the shadows for a while quietly retreated again. They are still there, but secret once more. However, it is true
that there are many more Pagans and witches in Britain than any time in the last fifteen hundred years, and there are several organisations, such as The Pagan Federation that represent UK Pagans. Regular festivals and open rituals are held the length and breadth of the country, but, oh, when I attend these I am left feeling sorry for the many sincere people who come to take part, because the ritual is only the palest shadow of what is possible, and what a trained priestess and coven could achieve.
TWPT: You have a great interest in art and photography to be sure but when was it that writing first attracted your attention in a serious way? What subjects did you tackle in some of your earlier writings and how did the finished product make you feel?
AF: My degree is in fine art, and I specialised in photography at college. I worked as a photographer, exhibited and lectured in photography for many years. I have always loved writing though, and wrote many short stories and even a novel when I was a teenager. Needless to say, it was never published. My serious writing on Pagan topics began when I started to publish Silver Wheel magazine in the 1980s. There were very few Pagan or Wiccan
magazines then, but they were in great demand by all the new followers the movement was attracting in those heady days. People were desperate for information about rituals, festivals, Craft history, philosophy and magic. It wasn't long before I started writing articles for other magazines too, but it wasn't until the mid nineties that I wrote my first book, 'Herb Craft', in conjunction with another high priestess, Sue Lavender.
TWPT: What differences exist between Alexandrian/Gardnerian Witchcraft and Traditional Witchcraft? What is it that a tradition means to you and what role do traditions play in the larger scheme of Witchcraft and Paganism?
AF: My second degree came from a Traditional Witchcraft coven ten years after my first from a Gardnerian coven, from the Hearth of Brighid of the Coranieid Tribe, run by Sara and Phil Robinson. Sara was an initiate of Horsa, the famous New Forest Coven that had initiated Gerald Gardner. With her, I learned the difference between Traditional Witchcraft and Gardnerian Wicca and its many offshoots which spread across the Atlantic. Gerald Gardner
had elaborated a great deal on what he learned in the New Forest.
Traditional Witchcraft is much less ritualistic; workings are always performed outdoors in the wild, among the elements, and centred in raw Nature. Perhaps the most important thing I learned with Sara and Phil is that everything is connected within the great Web of Being. This is perhaps the great difference between Pagans and other religions. We believe that the Divine is manifest in nature, and is imminent: we can walk out and speak to it, communicate with it. We can touch our
I learned that magic works by vibrating the Web. Each plant, scent, crystal, stone, place, sound, movement, etc. vibrates at a different frequency and is connected to a different strand of the web. If we want to make magic work, we have to know which strand of the web to vibrate, and which tools we need to make this work. Because this strand is connected to the next thing, and the next, this vibration would pass along the web, causing the effect required. But because this works something
like a stone thrown into a pond, the effects ripple outwards and continue until they reach the edges: in other words, one magical act will eventually affect the whole web, and should only be performed with full knowledge of this.
TWPT: Tell me about the founding of the Hearth of Arianrhod? Did you have any goals in mind to accomplish through this group when it was founded?
AF: The Hearth of Arianrhod was born through necessity. Together with several other people from the local area, I had been a member of the Hearth of Brighid, run by Phil and Sarah Robinson. When they moved to the south coast, it was left to me to keep things running here. For the first few years we journeyed south for the sabbats, but eventually were given licence to work on our own, and I became the high priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod.
My aim in founding the Hearth was to keep alive the traditional teachings of British Wicca, which centre around a real relationship with the earth and its spirits, and a love and reverence for both.
TWPT: You mentioned in one of your answers that British Wicca
centers around a real relationship with the earth and its spirits, do you find
that it is more difficult to connect with those spirits
in a society that has moved
away from an agrarian base and more into an industrial one?
AF: I think that it is part of the duty of the
witch to resurrect that knowledge- we are, after all, supposed to be a nature
based religion. It is part of the early training
of the witch to work with the cycles of nature- the Wheel of the Year, the
cycles of the moon, planting and harvest in both nature
and human experience. When a witch enters a new
place, he or she should be aware of its spirits and atmosphere. However, I think it is a mistake to assume that cities and towns do not have spirit. They have
their own energies, sometimes very powerful, and often very ancient. These
energies may be contacted and worked with too.
TWPT: You brought up
an interesting point about many folks who came out of the closets en masse during the 1980ís only to disappear back into the
closets as disillusionment
set in, do you find that this feeling among Pagans in the UK
has lessened since that time or is everyone still content to stay in the shadows
with their faith?
AF: This is not
restricted to the UK. I speak to witches in Europe and the US who feel the same. There are greater numbers of public Pagans than there ever were, but
traditional witches play little part in public rituals and organisations, with
a few notable exceptions. Some of them started to run open groups in the 1980s, but most of them, not recognising the Craft they knew in the watered
down versions that proliferated, spread by people with no real training or
authority, retreated back into the shadows.
TWPT: Tell me when you first decided that you would write about
Wicca and how you decided what those initial forays into writing were going to
AF: I started writing
about the Craft when I needed articles for our magazine Silver Wheel. I wrote about what I had
learned, and the things I was teaching my coven. My first book was a magical herbal called Herb Craft written in conjunction
with another high priestess called Sue Lavender. We were tired of our students
coming to us with books that professed to be
about magical herbalism, but which were nothing more than collections of folklore and crude folk magic.
TWPT: What were some of the realities of writing books that took you by
surprise once you began writing for publication?
AF: Well, it is hard work for one thing! I often
work sixteen hour days when a deadline is looming. Publishers sometimes
imagine that you can write a book in a week and impose crazy deadlines. On the other hand, if I spend more than a day or two away from the computer I start
to get withdrawal symptoms.
TWPT: Does your role
as High Priestess alter the way that you write your books and your expectations
of them as they go out from you into the world?
AF: Most of my books are about the Craft and Pagan practice. They
draw on my own training and my experiences of running a coven. I just want to pass
on some of the things I have learned and
hopefully help people to find their way forward along the path.
TWPT: Do Wiccan/Pagan
authors see themselves as imbuing their books with personal energy during the
creation process and if so what might you think that this energy does when a reader
buys your book?
AF: I don't know what
other writers think, but unless I have misunderstood the question, I would be very wary about
putting personal energy into a book. That might be a dangerous two-way street. I want to pass on
knowledge and ideas, and then it is up to the readers to employ them, using their own energies.
TWPT: I notice that
two of your books have a seasonal theme to them, Midsummer and Lammas, would you like to cover all the celebrations as an
author or do these two have a particular significance to you?
AF: I would love to
write a book about each of the festivals, but these two books form part of Llewellyn's Eight Sabbat series. Llewellyn
asked a few of their Wiccan writers to contribute, with Raven Grimassi covering Beltane, Silver Ravenwolf Halloween and
so on. Paul and I were commissioned to write Lammas, and I had already been working on a Midsummer book, so I sent that in too.
TWPT: I also noticed
that you have worked with Paul Mason on the Sacred Circle Tarot, how is it
that the creative process works when
there are others involved? For example Paul was the illustrator on this tarot deck, did
the two of you talk about where this project was going and how you wanted it to
get there? How different is it to work on a book for a tarot deck instead of a
book on any other subject?
AF: The way it usually
works is that I will come up with an idea, and discuss it with Paul. If he
likes it, and wants to work on it, I will go away, work on the format and write the text. Next I explain what I want in
each picture, sometimes just furnishing a description, or maybe sketching it [now I might even mock up the picture in Photoshop to show him exactly what I want]. We then take the photographs
between us- Paul will do most of the landscapes and I will often photograph the
people, though this varies. Then Paul scans in the pictures and works on the computer. Each image may have up to forty separate elements to be cut and pasted to produce the final
collage. Sometimes he will present me with something very different from what I had in
mind [occasionally we argue about this!] but often he
will produce something that by far exceeds what I
TWPT: Tell me about some of the other books that you have written and the
process that you go through as you begin a new project. Are there common steps to each book are are they completely different?
HERBCRAFT - A
Guide to the Ritual and Shamanic use of Herbs by Anna Franklin and Sue Lavender.
The idea for this book came out of discussions between myself and Sue Lavender, another high priestess. We
thought that there was no book about real Craft teachings concerning magical herbalism, rather than the crude folk magic usually offered as magical herbalism, a pale shadow of the traditional Craft teachings. We
wrote the book between us, over hundreds of cups of tea. Sue wrote the growing
and cultivation aspects of the book, I wrote the lore and magic, together we wrote the medicinal sections. Sue wrote the chapters of associated
crafts including paper making and dyes, I wrote the chapters on magical herbalism, plant spirits, and medicinal herbalism, and the appendices on the festivals. We called in
Paul Mason to provide the illustrations. Published by Capall Bann 1995
FAMILIARS- the Animal Powers of Britain- by Anna Franklin. I had been spending a
lot of time working with animal totems and familiars. I realised that a lot of the available books
spoke of such things from the viewpoint of
Native American medicine man, rather than the traditional witch. Again, I wanted
to pass on what I had learned about familiars, fetches and so on. Again, the book was
illustrated by Paul Mason and published by Capall Bann 1997
PAGAN FEASTS - by
Anna Franklin and Sue Phillips- This book was a fun book about food for the
Eight Pagan Festivals. It is part of the Craft to recognise the changing of the
seasons, and the bounty that each season offers, and this is reflected in the
traditional foods for each festival. We shared recipes for food, incenses, wines, meads, herb teas and drinks. I illustrated this book myself. Published by Capall Bann 1997
PERSONAL POWER -by
Anna Franklin- for many
years I had taught a one year course in personal and spiritual
development. This course had been refined and honed over time, and many people told me that it helped them enormously. I decodfed to make it avaialble in the form of a self help book
in the form of twelve monthly lessons. Published by Capall Bann 1998.
THE SACRED CIRCLE
TAROT A Celtic Pagan Journey - by Anna Franklin, illustrated by Paul Mason
[including photographs by Anna Franklin]. I started to design a tarot pack in
the 1980s using photographing collages. I roped in Paul Mason to help me, but the process proved to be so time consuming and expensive, that we eventually abandoned it.
Years later, when Paul worked as a graphic designer, he realised that what we
had been trying to achive in the darkroom could now be executed on computer. The project was resurrected and took just over
two years to complete. The imagery of these cards explores the sacred circles of Britain and Ireland and is designed to help you discover the
sacred circle of your life. The
accompanying book explains the imagery and symbolism of the cards, and how to use them for divination, meditation, and to explore the Journey of the Fool.
This pack rapidly gained popularity and now frequently tops tarot popularity
charts. It is one of Llewellyn's top 100 best sellers. Published by Llewellyn
THE WELLSPRING by
Anna Franklin and Pamela
Harvey, illustrated by Helen Field- This is a book of seasonal inspirations for
the eight Pagan festivals, including recipes, incense, ritual, invocations, and
totems etc. It was primarily written to air the work of Pamela Harvey and Helen Field, and bring it to a wider
audience. Published by Capall Bann March 2000
FAIRY LORE by Anna
Franklin. This book began life as part of a much larger work, my Encyclopaedia of Fairies, which originally had sections on fairy tales
and lore, as well as the A-Z. I realised that the tales and lore were really a
separate book, and asked Paul to illustrate it. Paul also designed the book,
and it is lavishly illustrated in black and white throughout. Published by
Capall Bann March 2000
AND OILS by Anna Franklin - I used to earn my living supplying occult shops with magical incenses and oils, and selling them at gatherings and fairs. Magical herbalism is my Craft speciality, and I shared some of my
secrets in this book, which contains hundreds of
recipes, plus examinations of herbs, essential oils,
festivals, and appendices of correspondences. Capall Bann March 2000.
LAMMAS By Anna
Franklin and Paul Mason. This work is part of Llewellyn's eight festival book
series. It was commisoned by Llewellyn and covers the origins and lore of
the Lammas/ Lughnasa festival and its customs- these are unknown to many
modern Pagans. I felt that the book should also show
how to celebrate Lughnasa, so it also includes rituals, spells, traditional
Lammas games and recipes. Llewellyn 2001
MIDSUMMER By Anna
Franklin. This work is a companion volume to Lammas, designed as part of Llewellyn's Eight Festival
Series. It covers the origins of the festival, plus folklore, customs and suggestions for celebrating the festival today,
with recipes, games, rituals, etc. Llewellyn March 2002.
REAL WICCA FOR
TEENS By Anna Franklin and Sue Phillips. This book was written as a response to
the interest in Wicca generated among teenagers as a result of its portrayal in
television programmes, and aims to give genuine information on the subject to teenagers and their parents.
Sue is the mother of teenage children, and some of the material aimed at them worried her greatly. Capall Bann March 2002
THE FAIRY RING By
Anna Franklin, illustrated by Paul Mason. This is a fairy oracle produced in
the same style as the sacred Circle Tarot, with
photographic montage combined with traditional artwork. The deck consists of
four suits of individual fairies, plus eight festival cards. The accompanying book details each fairy's lore, methods of contacting them and working with them, as well as the primary function of the deck as a divination tool.
Llewellyn September 2002
FAIRY ENCYCLOPAEDIA I had been working
on this for six years. It started life as an article, then grew and grew! It aims to be the most comprehensive book on fairies and fairy lore ever
published, containing hundreds of listings of individual fairies and types of
fairies living in every part of the globe, from the Abapansi of the Amazulu tribe to the German Zwerge, or dwarf. There are good fairies and bad
fairies, beautiful fairies, and fairies so ugly that that have to hide their
faces. There are fairies of water, fairies of fire, fairies of earth and
fairies of air. There are fairies that live only in the magical Otherworld. Some are friendly and helpful, some are downright murderous. Additional entries explain their habits, and
their likes and dislikes, such as why they wear red caps and why they disappear
forever if given a suit of clothes. Vega/Chrysalis October 2002
THE CELTIC ANIMAL
ORACLE by Anna Franklin, illustrated by Paul Mason. Book and 25 card deck.
Vega, a Chrysalis Books imprint, were keen for us to produce a couple of oracle
decks for them. The text contains a description of 25 animals and explains the symbolism of each animal helper. Divinatory meanings are given for each card in the upright and
reversed positions. Sample layouts are given, along with an introductory
chapter on Celtic shamanism, methods of finding your animal spirit helpers using the cards, and suggestions on
working with animal spirits. Chrysalis 2003
THE ORACLE OF THE
GODDESS by Anna Franklin, illustrated by Paul Mason. The Goddess Oracle
utilises twenty five multi-cultural
aspects of the Goddess, depicted in the twenty five cards of the deck, to help the reader explore his or her
spiritual path, and determine past, present and future life trends. Each card represents a particular goddess and is given
a key word, denoting the primary attribute of the goddess. Chrysalis 2003
TWPT: You have a
recent book out called Real Wicca for Teens, what approach did you take when it
comes to writing a book about and for teens on
the subject of Wicca?
AF: In recent years there have been a number of TV series and movies featuring witches and Wicca, and this has
sparked off an unprecedented interest in modern witchcraft and magic. Many teenagers are getting involved or seeking
information about the Craft, often from dubious sources. While some of the TV programs are hugely entertaining they give a distorted or completely false idea of what Wicca is really about.
While the Craft does not admit the under eighteens to covens, we Wiccans
must recognise that younger teenagers are becoming involved and are practising a form of Wicca, whether Craft elders like it or not. We must acknowledge that their interest is genuine and
provide the guidance that they actually need to find out what Wicca is about,
and to work safely and effectively.
Craft elders are
disturbed by some of the material aimed at teenagers on the Internet and in many books, which is often
misleading and sometimes dangerous. I have been horrified to find internet
sites aimed at teenagers, with instructions for
conjuring up entities and spirits with no indication at all that this could be
both perilous and frightening. Some sites seem to suggest that spells are a method of getting something for nothing with no price to pay [untrue] and
that this is all that Wicca is about. It is not. These sites and spells are
written by people who know very little more about magic than those they are trying to inform, or by people who do not believe in magic but who are cynically trying to make money by giving people what they want- not what is true.
This book aims to give real information about Wicca, including methods of working real Wicca, to teenagers. It also aims to answer their parents' and friends' questions
about the Craft. There are plenty of books available that cover the various
aspects of Paganism
and witchcraft for adults, but for younger people a lot of this information is irrelevant or unsuitable. When we looked
around, we discovered that there is very little information written especially for young people who want to
work real Wicca, rather than the Sabrina the Teenage Witch playacting kind.
This is a guide especially for this fast growing section of the Pagan community. This book is about what Wicca is, and how to
avoid common mistakes that can cause unnecessary
problems. Things that many books don't tell the reader.
TWPT: Tell me about the Silver Wheel magazine and how that came to be a part of your writing and a part of your
AF: I've been
publishing Silver Wheel since the mid-eighties. To be completely honest, I'm not sure why I started it, it just seemed like a good idea at the time! There were very few Pagan magazines then and some of my Craft brothers and sisters
were producing articles,
poetry and artwork that needed a platform. The first few issues were pretty slim, and not very well produced, but it struggled on. I
have contributed hundreds of articles over the years, and most of my books started as articles for Silver Wheel. I still
try out my ideas there. It is still produced as a small press magazine, and I print and distribute it from
TWPT: Several of
your books cover the topic of Fairies and Fairy lore, tell me about your interest in this topic and why you have
decided to devote several books to this subject?
AF: I don't remember when I saw my first fairy, but I know that I spent my childhood chatting to them, instinctively understanding that each tree, stream or district had its own, indwelling spirit. Then,
when I became a witch, it was part of my training to learn to communicate with the Wildfolk, as we called them. As we cast our circles in the woods, fairies flocked
around their edges. Sometimes they were visible only in glimpses out of the corner of the eye; sometimes they manifested fully as small, earth-coloured humanoids. This relationship between witches and fairies
has always existed. Look back into the records of witch trials and you will
find that most witches maintained that their powers came not from the devil, as their accusers claimed, but from the fairy folk, who taught them how to make potions, cast spells, and who gave them the healing gifts.
TWPT: What kind of
feedback do you get from your readers and how does this affect what it is that
you will write about next if at all?
AF: I love to get
letters from readers. I sit alone in my room, writing down my thoughts and ideas, and sometimes I wonder whether anybody actually reads them or finds them useful, so getting feedback is wonderful. I like to
know what works and what doesn't, so the next project will be better. Real
Wicca was written in direct response to questions from readers.
TWPT: You have quite a
number of titles on your website listed as
works in progress, are there any of those titles that you especially want to
see available to your readers?
AF: I'm really excited about The Encyclopaedia of Goddesses.
We are just doing the preliminary work at the moment, but Paul has already done some wonderful illustrations.
TWPT: Do you still
go out as an author to meet your readers at the fairs and conferences in the UK?
If so what are some of the venues that you will be appearing at in the
AF: I used to go to fairs and conferences on a
regular basis, then I stopped for a few years to concentrate on my coven and my writing. Over the last few years, I have received
several invitations to speak, and fit in as many of these as I can. Plans for 2003 have to be
confirmed, but I will be posting dates on my website.
TWPT: Finally as a
way of closing out this interview, do you have any thoughts that you would like
to share with our readers in regards to what the future holds for those who
follow this Pagan path?
AF: I think we are in
danger of losing the way under an avalanche of fluffy bunny spell books. Real
Pagans and witches seek to understand what the earth has to teach us. The
festivals demonstrate the ebb and flow of the year, and
the lessons of life, growth, dissolution, death and renewal. We honour the monthly waxing and waning of the moon, the increase and decrease of energies, and both masculine and feminine forces, God and Goddess. Being a witch is about
understanding power, however it manifests. The
real magic, and the primary business of the magician, is the evolution of the soul.
TWPT: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us and I wish you continued success with your writing.