The Author's Corner
Witch: A Magickal Journey
7 Days to a Magickal New You
Pop Goes the Witch:
Talks to Fiona Horne
FH: What attracted me to Witchcraft first and foremost was it's reverence for nature (give me the option of a TV set or movie cinema and a walk outside and I will always pick the nature option!) and emphasis on healing. When I knew that the Craft was resonating strongly in me I enrolled in a naturopathy college part time for two years and graduated with diplomas in Anatomy and Physiology, Symptomatology and Diagnosis, Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Massage and Aromatherapy. As the books I was reading to educate myself on the Craft emphasised the role of healing I thought I should 'walk the talk' and get some academic training in the practical world of healing to mirror the metaphysical insights I was learning.
And of course the emphasis the Craft places on a Feminine Principle of Divinity resonated very strongly in me having been brought up in a strict Catholic patriarchal values-based family and school environment - which I found very oppressive and uninspiring.
TWPT: You started to question the faith that you had been brought up on early in your life, do you think that teens and young adults are quicker these days to break away from their parent's beliefs and go looking for something to call their own? Why is it that Witchcraft seems to be benefiting so greatly from these migrations?
FH: I think Teens and Young adults are encouraged to grow up faster these days and gain a greater sense of independence sooner than previous teen generations - this is not only in their daily lives but in their timeless spiritual lives also. I know the proliferation of Witches portrayed in popular entertainment now is inspiring for them - when I was growing up it was mainly Bewitched - now its Charmed, Sabrina, Buffy, (Bewitched still) and movies like The Craft, Practical Magic etc etc. Plus there are so many more books available on the subject and the main influence I think ahead of everything is the Internet and the massive amount of esoteric information available there and the networking opportunities it presents with others sharing similar interests.
I think it is natural and inevitable that Witchcraft is establishing itself in modern times as a powerful and positive expression of the evolving human spirit and the teens and young adults drawn to it now are the practicing adult Witches of tomorrow - which can only be a good thing as our Craft encourages environmental responsibility and love, positive personal empowerment, respect and tolerance for others not of our Path and all the other good stuff!
TWPT: Tell me about your first few years as a dedicated Witch. What kinds of differences did being a Witch make in your life and how you lived from day to day?
FH: I spent a lot of time at home, boiling and labeling glass jars to contain my magickal herbs, potions and ointments! I kept my interests very private and read a lot of books (there was no Internet) and wrote song lyrics inspired by what I was learning. I spent a lot of time practicing meditation and visualisation and went on road trips to spiritual places like Byron Bay. I was also studying at college as I mentioned above. In the early days it was very much about 'doing' Witchy things rather than 'Being' a Witch. I didn't really have any friends with similar interests so it was a solitary passion which was good but also had me worried I wasn't doing things 'properly' hence the emphasis on honing the external 'Craft' aspect rather than knowing the magick and wisdom was actually inside me.
TWPT: Books about Paganism and Witchcraft have been steadily growing in numbers over the years, could you tell me about a few of the books that you found very helpful when you were still a book Witch seeking to learn what you could on your own. How much of that information has held true for you over the years and how much of it have you had to reevaluate as you grew into your faith?
FH: Starhawk's 'Spiral Dance' was a huge influence and is still a very relevant text. Ray Buckland's Blue Book was very helpful with it's school text book lay out and I still recommend that one to beginners.
'What Witches Do' by Janet and Stewart Farrar was (and is terrific) and the books I read first, 'The Way of the Goddess' by Ly Warren Clarke (now republished by Llewellyn as 'Magick in Theory and Practice' was and is terrific especially for it's Qaballistic pathworking and visualisations. And last but certainly not least, Scott Cunningham's 'Encyclopedia of Magickal Herbs' was and is an indispensable reference book.
TWPT: Your bio refers to you as a journalist and an author, when was it that your interest in writing began to surface and what were some of the first outlets you found for this talent?
FH: When I was in early grade school! I won an award for a short story I wrote and it was published in the School Year book when I was 10 years old! I always loved reading - my mother tells me that she threw a party for me on my fifth birthday and invited all the neighbourhood kids. The party was in full swing but she couldn't find me - when she did finally I was sitting in my wardrobe reading a book! I always loved Enid Blyton and C.S Lewis tales growing up - I couldn't get enough of them! Much like kids love Harry Potter now.
When I got older and was touring with my band I started doing a little music journalism cause I would be on the road with certain bands for months sometimes and would have cool conversations with 'famous' musicians that I turned into articles - I would always get a unique interview because of my status as another muso on the road with them.
This branched out into full blown journalism and then books eventually.
TWPT: With so many things going on in your life and the travel involved when is it that you find the time needed to write your books or for that matter answer interview questions such as these?
FH: I tend to plan books for months ahead of actually sitting down and writing them. Scraps of paper, the back of tickets, bills, napkins...all contain scribblings of sentences and ideas that ultimately I flesh out into books when I finally do reach the allocated time to 'write'. It usually takes me a bout 6 weeks to fully write a book, but I may have spent 3 to 4 months prior to that collating ideas. Answering interviews like this I just grab the moment for. Right now I am at the hairdressers and have my lap top with me. It's important to multi task.
Plus I never watch TV (well on very rare occasions) and that gives me time to answer the huge amount of emails I get everyday.
TWPT: Your first book was called Witch: A Magickal Journey, what was it that prompted you to write this book and what were some of the reactions that you received from readers to its publication? You were already in the public eye through your band but did this book thrust you into a whole other arena of publicity and if so how did you cope with this new attention?
FH: The book was a cathartic and healing experience coming out of the traumatic break up of my band. The initial buyers of it were fans of my band and there were quite a few of them who would have bought any book I wrote, whether it be on Witchcraft or making shoes! The popularity of my first book certainly rode on my profile from the band and in doing so positively introduced a lot of people to the Craft, popularising it greatly and also really opening the flood gates in Australia for other books on the subject.
The attention wasn't really new - it just continued on from where the band left off and gave me a privileged opportunity to talk about the Craft in a large public arena in Australia whilst being treated with respect and a positive interest by the media.
TWPT: Our society tends to promote celebrities to the status of spokespersons for many causes once it is known what they stand for, what kind of responsibility do you feel towards how you represent Wicca/Witchcraft in the public eye?
FH: I am honest and work to dispel the negative stereotypes and misinformation which involve Satanic practices, black magic and other negative misconceptions. I always make the point that Witchcraft is a very individual path and just because I am a very visible Witch it does not mean that other Witches practice the same as me. For all our individuality I emphasise that we have enough in common to unite us as one of the fastest growing spiritual paths in the western world.
The nature of my work means that sometimes I am personally misrepresented however but I use these times and the exposure I receive from them as opportunities to share more positive information about our Craft and manifest healing energy to correct the situation.
TWPT: Does it get easier to write each successive book or is the birth process pretty much the same for each book that you write? What is it that determines what a book will be about when you start thinking about the next one you'd like to do?
FH: The process gets easier, but the book writing itself doesn't - I will find any excuse to not sit down and write! My other friends who are writers say exactly the same thing! After I finish every book I think, 'Never Again!' but then a couple of months later an idea may start to germinate, usually seeded from a series of queries from people I will start to receive or a work offer that relates to a particular subject or aspect of the Craft will trigger me into 'book writing mode' again. For example my latest book in Australia called 'The Coven' (not yet released in the USA/UK) came about because I formed my first Coven in Los Angeles last year, and 'POP! Goes the Witch' came about because of the emails I was exchanging with close friends and fellow Witches in the Craft about how it is expressing itself in the 21st century after such a rapid period of growth over the last 10 to 15 years.
TWPT: We featured articles from both sides of this next issue including one from Phyllis Curott and one from Kerr Cuhulain about your appearance on Mad Mad House so I wanted to give you the floor for the next few questions as we delve into this subject a little bit. When was it that the concept of Mad Mad House was first presented to you and what were your initial reactions to the idea? What was it that finally convinced you that you should do the show and what kinds of reactions did you get from friends and the Wiccan/Pagan community at large?
FH: I have addressed this at length on my website and in article on the show in 'POP!Goes the Witch'. So to repeat myself... I was pitching show concepts to Sci Fi channel for a couple of years before Mad Mad House and they liked me but not the show concepts enough to greenlight them. They came to me with MMH and the offer to be the 'Witch' on the show and I immediately turned it down after seeing the first casting call which made the show look like it would be presented as an assembled 'freak' show. I really wanted to work for SciFi channel but not on something like that. But they kept coming back and asking me to be a part of it.
They also drastically revised the premise of the show and ultimately convinced me they did not want to portray Witchcraft in a negative light. So I decided to go with the path of least resistance and do the show. I have no regrets. If you watch the show you see in the early episodes I was given the opportunity to speak about the Craft and demonstrate practices of it and was in no way misrepresented. As the show went on however it started to portray me in a negative light, but not my Witchcraft - just me as a person. They made me look irrational, bitchy and fabricated a 'flirtatious relationship' between me and a young male contestant to give the show a story line that they felt was sensational enough to appeal to an audience. In the real world none of that stuff went on. Like most reality shows the editing was done in such a way to create totally fictitious scenarios - events were assembled out of order and conversations cut up to say something completely different to what was really being discussed. What was mostly left out of the final edit was what I loved most about being in the MMH. The daily yoga, the beautiful rituals, the inspiring spiritual conversations, the laughter, the friendship and the harmony. All these things are considered 'soft' and not entertaining by the TV executives that decide what ultimately goes to air.
Having said that, earlier in the show a lot of really positive information about the Craft made it to the screen even though I was portrayed as someone completely different to who I really am later on.
TWPT: Since you were being asked specifically to represent Wicca on this show what were your goals from the beginning as far as how you wanted to represent the Wiccan religion in this reality setting? Did you have any lines that you refused to cross during the filming of the show if by doing so you would cast Wicca in a bad light?
FH: As far as my Craft went the producers never asked me to do anything I didn't want to - for example I was never asked to hex anyone, they once asked Iya Tashia (the Yoruba Priestess) and I to do a sťance which we disagreed to do as we felt it was not respectful to the spirits of the house and they didn't push us to. I really felt as a Witch I was treated very respectfully. As an individual in the final edit being made to look like I had a crush on one of the contestants and that I was cruel and irrational at times - well these things were unkind to me but not to the Craft. Everyone on the show was at times portrayed 'other' than who they really were - I just copped it more than most!
I had definite goals - simple ones like never to cuss, roll my eyes at anything any one said, drink alcohol, etc etc cause these obvious things can be cut up to make you look like an alcoholic! But there was over 3000 hours of footage filmed that was edited into 10 hour shows and unless you sat in a corner and did not move or say anything the whole time there was no way of guaranteeing definitive control over what airs.
You can only be yourself and hope for the best! And the best did make it to air...at least a little bit.
TWPT: Were you allowed input by the producers of the show as to what role you were to play in regards to Wicca and how much of this input was brought to bear on the direction that your part in the show took?
FH: The producers promised never to make an Satanic or evil/black magic references and associations and they asked for my input on the two trials - for one I gave them information on cord magick and on the other information about the Salem Witch Trials. But ultimately the risk you take with reality TV is that the final edit is theirs and the networks choice. Again if you watch, it was never the Craft that was misrepresented, just me as a person sometimes.
TWPT: As a way to finish off this subject I'd like to offer you a free question here to speak to the reactions both good and bad that you received after your appearance on Mad Mad House and to let you speak to any other issues that I did not bring up in regards to your participation in this show that you would like to air out a bit.
FH: I received a lot of positive feedback about the show, mostly from other Witches who are also in the public eye who said I did a good job getting important positive factual information across about the Craft early on in the piece and even later on when there were moments shown of some of the impromptu rituals I conducted that were not a part of the trials and 'game' aspect of the show.
If people are interested in knowing more I encourage them to read my 'Behind the Scenes' reports on my website.
TWPT: Your latest book, Pop! Goes the Witch is a rather interesting project. First off where did the title come from and what was the message behind it?
FH: I created the title after playing around with the title, 'Pop goes the weasel'! The word 'POP' refers to popular culture and the whole title implies the 'pop culture explosion' of interest in Witchcraft and Wicca.
TWPT: How did you and disinformation press hook up? Tell me a little bit about the goals of disinformation press and why they decided to tackle a book about Witchcraft.
FH: I have been friends with the owners Richard Metzger and Gary Baddeley for a few years, being a fan of their other publications also. They are one of the most brilliantly subversive publishers in the world today.
It is an honor to be on their list! Richard is very knowledgeable in the occult and it was he that originally came up with the idea of me creating an anthology on modern Witchcraft for disinformation.
TWPT: You are listed as editor of Pop! Goes the Witch, how does that differ from what you normally do when you write a book? Was the experience better for you or do you still prefer being the author?
FH: I also contributed a couple of written pieces to POP! which was familiar territory, but overall the editing experience was very new and a challenge to 'tighten' up some of the submissions without changing the original voice of the writer. I had help from my good friend, Liam Cyfrin whose contribution to editing and arranging of chapters was invaluable.
I can't compare being an editor and an author - I enjoyed both equally for different reasons!
TWPT: There are quite a number of well known Pagan authors who have contributed to this book, tell me about your interactions with these other authors starting with how you decided on which ones you'd like to work with and how you got them on board.
FH: As I talk about in the acknowledgements section at the front of the book, I am extremely honored to have mentors like Janet Farrar, Ray Buckland and friends like Phyllis Curott contributing. Originally I emailed everyone and told them I was putting a book together and waited for a response. The response was very generous - hence the large and comprehensive content of POP!
TWPT: Did you have a theme that you communicated to all of these authors as to what you wanted to see covered in this book?
FH: Yes I suggested to each author what subject I was hoping they would be able to contribute on. I also was open to any suggestions they had as to what they would like to say in one of the first guides to Witchcraft published in the 21st century.
TWPT: Who is Pop! Goes the Witch aimed at as far as your readers are concerned? (ie newbies, etc)
FH: Newbies and experienced occultists - across the board, I think there is something in it for everyone. I like the review that says it is a terrific 'coffee table' book. I wanted it to be something anyone (including non-occultists) can pick up and browse through and enjoy.
TWPT: When you are the editor of a project like this do you go back and forth with the contributors trying to get the material just right or were the contributions right on target from the word go?
FH: I had to go back to some and ask for additional info or ask them to check some of the more extensive editing to make sure they were happy with it. A lot though, especially from the experienced writers was spot on. One of the joys of putting POP! together was featuring previously unpublished writers and giving them a public voice - though sometimes their work required a hefty nip and tuck!
TWPT: As for your own contributions to the book what areas of Witchcraft did you want to personally address and what messages did you want to get across?
FH: This is the first book published in America since I moved here full time so the introductory chapter from me includes a lot about what brought me to America and my new life here. I also included a piece about the controversial tv show I took part in this year, Mad Mad House to help address some of the questions I knew were out there in the community.
The spellcasting chapter is collated from a bunch of spells I have written over the years. It was one of the last chapters I added - as I always impress Witchcraft is a lot more than just casting spells, but I didn't want to leave them out entirely!
TWPT: What kind of feedback have you gotten about the book so far? Are you happy with the way that it has been received?
FH: I have had very positive feedback which is enormously gratifying. I am very happy with the book - I am looking forward to the appearances I am doing in support of it over the month of October this year. The Pagan Day Festival in Hollywood, Learning Annex Events in Los Angeles, San Diego and New York as well as a book signing in Boston.
Please visit www.fionahorne.com and click on 'Tours and Appearances' for full details.
TWPT: Any ideas as to what you might like to tackle next as an author? Are you considering a new book project for a little further down the road?
FH: I have a book published in Australia last year called 'The Coven -Making Magick Together'. I do not have a USA/UK publisher for it yet -so it is sitting there waiting for one. It is about me forming my first Coven in LA and a guide to doing that.
TWPT: As far as everything else that you are involved with, where might you be spotted next on TV. or in on of the other mediums?
FH: I have just completed a pilot called 'Ghost Encounters' with renowned psychic Peter James which I am excited about I hope it gets picked up. Also Mad Mad House is now airing in the UK, Spain and France (yes I have been dubbed! It is hilarious!)
TWPT: For many authors and celebrity Witches the mantle of spokesperson for our path is immediately thrust upon them, what are your thoughts and advice to those who find themselves in the position of speaking for not only themselves but the entire community? Is this a responsibility that you personally enjoy?
FH: Don't be deterred by the often very harsh and negative criticism you get from your own community. Some of the best advice I was ever given was by an Elder in our community - he said, "Remember, those that most strongly criticise you do so because they secretly desire to be you."
I enjoy promoting a positive acceptance and environment of tolerance for our Craft in the general community. It is tough work, but so rewarding, especially when young people come up and say, 'Thank you, because of you I am able to call myself Wiccan at school and my teachers know I am not worshipping Satan or doing bad things'.
TWPT: Finally, as you look into the future where would you like to see the Pagan community advance to over the next few years? What are your personal goals as they relate to where you'd like to be in a few years in regards to your path of Witchcraft?
FH: I would love to see our community really focus on practicing what we preach and promoting tolerance and unity within our community.
Personally, I want to start stepping back out of the public eye with my Craft and take it back just for me. I feel I have done the work I was called to do for the Craft and I want to continue in my career in entertainment without my spirituality being such a focus.
TWPT: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at TWPT and I wish you the best as you try to move ahead with your entertainment career and restore some of the privacy associated with your spirituality.