The Author's Corner
The Real Witches' Craft
The Real Witches' Coven
Spell in Your Pocket
The Real Witches Coven:
Talks to Kate West
TWPT: What was it that first led you to personally explore Witchcraft/Wicca as a
KW: There were
As a young child I was raised in close proxi
Also, despite being Christian
It was only later, on a visit to the Witchcraft Museu
Was your life such at the ti
Was your life such at the ti
KW: In so
Did you have so
Did you have so
KW: My interests in nature, plants, herblore, wildlife and the
cycles of the Moon and the seasons were all aided by
TWPT: What kind of Craft community existed at that time and how
did you goabout making contact with it?
TWPT: What kind of Craft community existed at that time and how did you goabout making contact with it?
KW: It never really occurred to me to try to seek out a Coven in the early years and I literally found my way by instinct: I was out inthe car one day, took a side turn I had never noticed before and discovered a shop which was not listed. This led to my firstknowing contact with other practising Witches. Subsequently I have discovered that during most of my developing years therewere Covens and other Witches really very close to me then, even to the extent of being in the same place at the same time –but at the time I wasn’t consciously aware of them.
TWPT: Tell me about the first several years that you spent seriouslypracticing your new beliefs and what kind of growth you experienced asyou gained knowledge and put it to use.
KW: In the early days my Craft practise really focussed on some of the things I wonder if we sometimes forget to go back to today. I spent a lot of time simply observing and being part of the cycles of the seasons, and in being in touch with the land. I followedthe cycle of the Moon and made a point of relating her phases with those both within and outside of myself. I read anythingand everything I could about the tales and myths of the Goddess and the God, and literally spoke with them about my life andasked them for guidance in my Craft. I studied and practiced meditation techniques and learned through actually practising theCraft how those skills are so essential to the visualisation which makes magic work. Although I certainly worked magic, Inever really thought in terms of spells and even less so about rituals. For me, magic was just something I did, not in any way athe complex process that so many new Witches seem to expect it to be. Of course I made mistakes, we all do, but I learnedfrom them, which is as the Goddess intends.
TWPT: Was writing something that you had always wanted to do? When was itthat you decided that writing about The Craft was something that youneeded to do?
KW: I never really set out to write, it just sort of happened to
me! At the time I started writing I was
working in an ‘occult’ shop and running a Coven comprised almost entirely of newcomers to
the Craft. I found myself answering the
same questions overand over again. As a
result I wrote a short pamphlet entitled “Religion, Ritual and Magic” to
summarise some of the answersto frequent questions from the public. In some respects I suppose that I hoped to
move the questions on to a more interestinglevel! I also found
myself providing printed sheets to many of my Coven members, and indeed to the
members of otherCovens. Anyway the
pamphlet, and some of the notes, grew into a booklet and eventually, at the
suggestion of my currentpartner, into a
book. “Born in
TWPT: Did you have any ideas as to what the books were going to be about?Did you perceive some needs within the community for the material thatyou eventually were to write?
KW: One of the first questions newcomers to the Craft ask is
invariably “Can you recommend any good books?”
At the time of ‘
TWPT: Give me a brief overview of the Pagan Federation and then tell meabout your involvement with them and how that came about.
KW: The Pagan Federation is possibly the foremost Pagan organisation in the world today. It was founded in 1971 with the twinpurposes of fighting defamation and educating the public, via the media, about modern Paganism. Although founded byWitches it has always sought to include other Pagan beliefs within its remit, and I feel has served the Pagan community well.
I became active within the PF in the mid 90’s and, having stood for election, became Media Officer. Shortly after that I wasnominated Vice President, and served my 3 year term of office. However, it became progressively more difficult to fulfil myobligations to the PF as my young son became more active and demanding, so I did not stand for the office of President eventhough pressed to do so. I still do occasional media work on behalf of the PF, but these days most of my effort is directedtoward the Craft community and I work closely with The Children of Artemis for the promotion of today’s Witchcraft andWicca.
TWPT: When was it that you formed the Hearth of Hecate coven and how has itgrown and changed over the years? Is this something that you areintimately involved with even now? Is the coven associated with any ofthe major trads?
KW: The Hearth of Hecate was founded in the mid 1990’s when I
first moved to
Although I was initiated in the Gardnerian tradition, I
guess that The Hearth would be better described as beingAlexandrian/Traditional in its workings. In the time since it was established the
Hearth has grown to the point that we nowhave four Daughter Covens, and another ‘on the way’! Although we are now based in
TWPT: What was your first book that was published and how did that becomea reality?
KW: My first published book was “Born in
One day whilst I was working in the shop in
TWPT: Were you pleased with the way it was received by your readers anddid you immediately set about writing your next one? Or at leastthinking about what you might like to tackle next.
TWPT: When did the idea for the Real Witches series of books first occurto you?
KW: Coming to motherhood at the age of 40 has given me a real
sense of having been given a gift from the Goddess. And as such Ifeel it is an obligation (as well as my pleasure) to look
after my family. This means there is
less available time for the Craft. Whereas previously I could spend time looking for obscure
herbs, oils etc. or in writing complex and elaborate Rituals, I nowhad all my previous obligations and to care for a small
child as well. The RW series was started because I realised there was aneed for books for people who wanted to practise the Craft
but who also had homes, jobs and families to consider, whocouldn’t devote all their time to the Craft but who still
wanted to follow that path. At around
the same time I was approachedby several parents who wanted to allow their youngsters to
read about and practise the Craft but who felt that many of thecurrent texts were too formalised or too devoted to
Ritual. So I tried to make The Real
Witches’ Handbook accessible to, butnot directed at, younger readers as well. The whole point about The Real Witches’ books
is not that they purport to be the
TWPT: What makes your series of books stand out from the rest of thetitles that purport to be complete introductions to Wicca and the Craft?
KW: I try to write in the same way that I would speak; I endeavour to make my books easy to understand, and informal, humorouseven. I try to include practical information so that the reader can really make things work and safety information so that theydon’t set their hair, house or cat afire! I put in real life examples from myself and my Coven to show that mistakes can be made and lessons learned. I try to ensure that any ingredients are accessible so they don’t have to spend weeks seeking hair ofbat or hen’s teeth. In short I assume that the reader has other things to do rather than having to analyse my writing to work outmy meaning. I really don’t think I can or should comment on other writers as I’m sure that they too have their own intent whenwriting.
TWPT: Who would benefit from The Real Witches Handbook?
KW: TRW Handbook is for anyone who wants to practise the Craft in a way sympathetic to those around them; be that theirparents, children, partner or flatmates and whether because those people just aren’t of the Craft, or would be actively againstit. Not everyone has the luxury, or for that matter the inclination, of being able to shift all the furniture, burn copious quantitiesof asafoetida and bang a drum at midnight! But it is also for anyone who wants to follow the Craft without a lot ofparaphernalia and Ritual, or in a style closer to the traditional Witch.
TWPT: You mention in the Real Witches Handbook that seekers might bemisled by some of the dubious texts that abound, is there anything youcan offer these seekers that might help them avoid these pitfalls?
KW: There’s some smashing examples of dubious books around, one which has recently resurfaced gives a precise text so that the(presumably lazy) reader will be able to recite the Lord’s prayer backwards!! But that’s an obvious example. Probably thethings that most need to be borne in mind are that the Craft comes in many forms and not all of those are right for everyone. A reader should retain their common sense when reading any book, and if something does not feel right to them then it probablyis not right for them. Whilst I agree that we should treat books with respect (that’s the message I’m trying to instil in my 5 yearold anyway!), you do not have to finish reading, let alone treasure, something you feel is wrong for you. It is not as thoughthese days there is any shortage of available material from which to choose. If you’re not sure about a particular book, order it from your local library, read it and then decide if you want to buy. Finding a good book is not a great deal different fromfinding a good car mechanic; you could just pick the nearest or easiest to find, but if you want a good one, then get a recommendation from someone you trust. Oh, and when you have read a good book, take a look to see if the author recommends anyothers.
Whilst we’re sort of on the subject I’d just like to mention another thing: I know that books are expensive but, as a lender of books could I just ask your readers to do other lenders a favour and remember to promptly return anything they borrow, preferably in the condition it was loaned!
TWPT: How prevalent are the predators and the charlatans within the realmof Witchcraft and Paganism? Is there anything that the true followers ofthe way can do to give the seeker a safer environment?
KW: There’s no way of telling how many people try to misuse the Craft for their own ends, whether to extract money, for sexualpurposes, or just as a ‘power trip’, but there is also no doubt that there are some who do so. However many there are, it’sstill too many.
There are several things we can do to make the Craft a safer place: We need to provide safe forums for communication and the exchange of ideas, in particular for the young. It is no use justtelling a 16 yr old to wait, we all know that two years is forever when you are in your teens. Besides, how many of us can honestly say we were over 18 when we started? We have to provide safe places for communication and even meeting. If we, the reputable Witches won’t, then guess who will! In the UK the Children of Artemis do this through their website andGatherings.
We must inform and educate all newcomers, about money, sex and control. Everyone approaching the Craft should be awarethat, whilst Covens and individuals do need to cover their expenses, we do not charge huge sums of money for teaching theCraft, or working magic. They should be aware that, whilst skyclad and The Great Rite Actual do happen, no-one should everbe forced to do something which they are not prepared for, or to which they have not consented.
They should also be aware that true Witchcraft is not about exercising power over others, or having it exercised over you. It isabout self control , development and personal responsibility.
We need to police ourselves. Where someone is discovered to be using the Craft for their own ends we should communicateamongst ourselves and ensure that word gets out. In the days when the Craft was smaller it was common for a High Priestessto contact others of her acquaintance to let them know that ‘X’ was power-hungry, or even just a liability! I’m not suggestingthat we produce a formal blacklist, but being able to say “I really wouldn’t recommend X”, then most people should get theidea.
As this subject has come up more than once recently, I shall be holding a workshop at Witchfest in Croydon in November ’03,on the subject of avoiding just these sorts of people and problems.
TWPT: As I have been up to your website I am sure that you are aware ofthe importance of being visible on the web but what role has the webplayed in the resurgence of Witchcraft in the recent years?
KW: I feel certain that email and the web are major contributory
factors in the rise of would-be Witches.
Whereas previously many people were interested there was nowhere they could go to
find out the facts, few books to read, and any meetings would onlyknown to a few. Now
there is an abundance of information and communication, and it is possible to
reach people around theglobe at the touch of a button (at least for those who don’t
have my computer there is!). This, of
course, brings its own problems but on the whole I feel that it’s a good thing so long as
people take sensible precautions.
people were interested there was nowhere they could go to find out the facts, few books to read, and any meetings would onlyknown to a few. Now there is an abundance of information and communication, and it is possible to reach people around theglobe at the touch of a button (at least for those who don’t have my computer there is!). This, of course, brings its own problems but on the whole I feel that it’s a good thing so long as people take sensible precautions.
The web brings the Craft other advantages too; we can share our Craft with many others of like mind, we can call uponWitches around the world to help with specific acts of magic, we can share our joys as well as our troubles.
TWPT: Is it anymore likely that you will run into those dubious characterson the web as you would in real life?
KW: Definitely. It is so easy for someone to appear to be something they are not when all you have is their words on screen. Theso-called sixth sense we all use when we meet someone new is all but completely useless on the internet. Worse than that, ifand when you do meet someone with whom you have exchanged emails, you have a somewhat distorted preconceived idea ofthem from their words, and the mental image you have given them, to overcome before your instincts can even start tooperate. It’s all too easy to forget that someone you have never met before is a stranger – even if you’ve been correspondingfor 10 years, they’re still a stranger!
It is well known that paedophiles in particular do use the web as a way of contacting minors, and young would-be Witches areas vulnerable, if not more so, than others. These would-be Witches are aware that there is secrecy surrounding the Craft andso are not surprised that contacts are secretive. They are frequently unwilling or unable to tell their parents who, where andwhy they are meeting and hence can easily put themselves at risk.
I’d like to remind everyone of just some of the key ‘rules’ when meeting someone they do not know well:
Make it a public place, with other people around, preferably in daylight.
Make it somewhere you know well.
Take a friend, even if they have to keep an eye on you from a distance.
Make sure you can get home under your own steam.
Never go anywhere with a stranger. If they need to show you something in their car (or wherever), they can go and fetch it – you stay safe.
Make sure you do not give information that enables you to be located whether at home, work, school or college.
Trust your instincts!
TWPT: Tell me about the Real Witches Kitchen and why you decided to writethis book?
KW: I must confess that I really wanted to call this book “Kitchen Witchery” because that’s what I call it when I show Covenorshow to do these sorts of things, but the publishers really didn’t like that title!
The archetypal image of a Witch frequently shows her
stirring a bubbling cauldron over an open fire, and in some respects thisis a factually accurate, if out of date, picture. Much of the work of the Witch takes place, or
at least starts, in the kitchen. It’sno use having knowledge of the healing powers of herbs and
plants if you have no way of getting them into your unsuspecting
Additionally, there’s the thorny subject of foods to
celebrate the Sabbats. I feel quite
strongly that the Sabbat feast should
TWPT: Do you feel the same relationship as a teacher would about those whoread and study your books? How does this affect the way that you writeif at all?
KW: I certainly feel much the same way about my readers as I do
about my Covenors, although often with less exasperation forlateness, absence and the like! In fact much of what I write has already
formed part of Coven life, long before the books areeven thought of. I
certainly feel the same responsibilities towards them, especially in terms of
their safety, both physical andotherwise, hence all the harping on about being careful with
candles and the like! I think this does influence
the way I write,
I do try to respond to all those who contact me, although between life, computer problems and deadlines etc. I’m frequentlynot as prompt as I would like to be.
TWPT: I have seen on your website where you are hard at work on a newtitle in the Real Witches series that will be out in 2003. Tell me aboutwhat we can expect from The Real Witches Coven and some of the conceptsthat it will be covering.
KW: The Real Witches’ Coven is due out in the UK on Feb 17th , and is intended to guide the would-be High Priestess and/or HighPriest through the whole challenging process of starting and running a Coven. I like to think that it will also hold some newideas for those with experience too. TRW Coven covers setting up a Coven from finding and selecting members, throughtraining and initiations, rules and discipline, Rituals for Esbats and Sabbats, the problems you might encounter day to day andways of avoiding them, right through to the ways a Coven might divide or even close. It even includes a piece on how to be agood Covenor, as it just isn’t possible to run a Coven without the co-operation of the members! The idea is to try and helppeople avoid at least some of the pitfalls and hopefully to give them a chance to enjoy having a Coven, rather than spending alltheir time picking up the pieces!
As an aside, when I first thought about this project (it was going to be called The Coven Handbook at that time) all the otherHPS’s and HP’s I spoke to came up with the same idea; 200 pages filled with “Don’t do it!” in large type!
TWPT: Even before that we can expect a new book from you called A Spell inYour pocket around December of 2002. The title makes it fairly obviousbut give me a run down on what will be included in this book and why abook of spells?
KW: A Spell in Your Pocket is not actually a book of spells per se, but is a pocket sized introduction to the Craft which includes some spells, and herb lore. It’s more of a gift book than part of the Real Witches’ series.
Having said that I’ve just completed writing The Real Witches’ Book of Spells and Rituals, which should be published later thisyear (2003). This really is a book of spells and rituals and came about because of the large number of enquiries I havereceived from practising Witches who want instruction on what sort of magic to perform, and how to do it, to achieve theirintent. As the title suggests it also includes many Rituals and information on how to write and put together your own. A lot ofpeople are still concerned that there are definitive ‘right’ ways to approach the Goddess and the God and I’m hoping toencourage the idea that, if your intent is pure, you can be really quite flexible about how you meet with your Gods.
TWPT: I hear you’ve had a frightful time with your computer over the last few months, has this had any spillover into when readerscan expect to see the books that you were working on at the time?
KW: Computers? Aaarghhh!! Firstly, I must apologise to your readers if they were expecting to read this a bit sooner.
I’ve always been a bit of a technophobe but this last year takes the biscuit! If I was just a little bit more paranoid I’d beconvinced that it’s all a plot designed to prevent me from completing a book on time. And yes, research has indicated that itoriginated from a stronghold of Christian evangelism!!
Anyway, by dint of staying up until the small wee hours, and farming out my poor child to anyone who’d look after him, I gotthe book (TRW Spells and Rituals) in on my second extension deadline, and if the Old Gods are smiling on me it should be outtowards the end of the year.
However, as my piece on the Harper Collins website hints at, if I find out who designed the viruses that started the problem, Iwon’t be needing Witchcraft when I take them for a short walk through the garden of enlightenment!! BTW many thanks tothose out there who have sent me anti-virus spells.
TWPT: Do you ever venture out on the road doing personalappearances/teachings and what kinds of memorable experiences have youhad out among the Pagan folk?
KW: Yes, I’m a frequent speaker at Craft events, Pagan conferences, and other groups, not to mention bookshop talks and signingsetc.. So far for this coming year I’ve got a number of things already lined up including Witchfests in Dublin, Glasgow andCroydon, Witchcamp in the summer and many others. Then I’m doing a Handfasting course in Feb, and have offers for a number of other events and meetings, which I’ve yet to cross-match against the school holiday timetable!
I find it’s great to get out and meet the people who are part of the Craft today, as well as those who are going to be taking itfrom here into the future. Not only that, but I get to make new friends and catch up with existing ones. My poor partnerSteve, rarely gets to enjoy the conferences in the same way as he’s usually practising his speciality, directing sound and lightingon whatever stage(s) are being used.
Of all the events we’ve been to over the years PantheoCon in San Jose has got to be the most memorable: From being toldthat we looked too straight to be Witches (despite the temporary pentagram tattoos on our foreheads!), to the hotel sharedbetween a couple of hundred Witches and a somewhat nervous-looking 4th Army Airbourne Division, it was quite the moststunning and entertaining conference we’d attended, then or since.
At one point I was running late doing Q & A after my talkwhen the ‘wall’ was rolled back to reveal a row of very unhappy looking soldierly types who weren’t going to cross theinvisible line between ‘them’ and ‘us’. I don’t suppose my comment that “they don’t look much like Witches to me” helped them to feel any more relaxed as one scurried off to find someone in charge to move us along!
the only ‘limey’s’ inattendance, our insistence on going for a walk had the hotel
staff speechless, and it took us days to work out that whatsounded to our uninitiated ears like “eighth-army” turned
out to be a strong southern accent saying
TWPT: You seem to be very busy at the moment, is there anything else thatyou would like to share with our readers around the world about what isin store for Kate West over the next few years? Any final thoughts orbits of wisdom that you might like to share with everyone?
KW: Well as I’ve indicated; TRW Coven is due out in Feb., and TRW Spells and Rituals towards the end of the year. I’m currentlyworking on The Real Witches’ Garden, which is scheduled for publication in March 2004. TRW Garden is not a ‘how togarden’ book, but rather how to use the Craft to help your garden and your garden to help your Craft. As I’ve tended gardensof all shapes and sizes, from window sill to extensive wilderness, and in all kinds of condition from gravelled over to ex-buildersrubble heap, I intend to try to bring a little bit of earth magic into every environment and to focus on what is possible, ratherthan what would be ideal.
After that? Well we’re looking at an idea for The Real Witch’s Diary which, if it’s accepted, will be a somewhat lighter workcombining information on the Craft with real Diary entries. A cross between my Book of Shadows and my personal journal(only without any child-care entries!). There are other ideas in the offing, but I’m keeping those under wraps for present, nosense in tempting the fates too much!
I’ve already listed some of my forward appearances above and details usually appear on The Children of Artemis website.
They don’t go on mine as only Steve can update it and he can sometimes be ‘on the road’ for weeks at a time. Having said that, we are in the process of catch-up at present. Other info can be found on Harper Collins site together with my “thoughtfor the season” which comes out for most Sabbats.
And finally, I can’t claim authorship but I do like it:
“Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup!”
In Mirth and Reverence..... Blessings Kate
TWPT: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Kate and I do hope that you have seen the worst of your computer problems for quite some time to come. Blessings upon your journey and your writings.