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Visions of The Cailleach
Visions of The Cailleach
TWPT: Tell me about your childhood spiritually speaking and how that laid the foundation for the explorations that you would embark on as you reached your teens.
Sorita: I was fortunate as a child to have the support and input of people who were outside of the normal rules of the otherwise quite restrictive society I was raised in as a child growing up in Cape Town, South Africa during the "Apartheid" years. My grandparents in particular were very influential on me, especially those on my fathers' side of the family - as the oldest grandchild I spent quite a lot of time with them whilst my parents were at work and during school holidays. My grandfather taught me about gardening and the natural world; whilst my grandmother introduced me to a world of lost and forgotten gods and heroes through classical literature, art and the Romantic poets. My creative moods were encouraged by my entire family, especially my aunt who seemed to be exploring a different form of art every week herself (even now!). When I was about 3 or 4 years old I had the first of what is commonly referred to as an Out of Body Experience (OOBE), and as I grew older I read whatever literature I could find on the occult in libraries and in encyclopaedias. Much of what I could find was in fact very anti-occult, but always being contrary I read away and tried to reverse-engineer that which I was being warned against.
Between my weird and wonderful experiments, and the freedom through which to express myself I was given, I somehow parted the veils for myself – or maybe it was parted for me with the sound of perfection and beauty luring me to walk through. Either way, it is true that the Occult is a dangerous thing – once you pass through those veils for the first time and you truly see, it is impossible to forget and turning around is never an option, just like you cannot truly take back words spoken.
TWPT: I know a many people think that religion or spirituality is sort of one and done kind of deal that never changes. You explored a variety of religions and spiritual traditions as you grew up so what are your thoughts on the kind of thinking that limits people to never looking around themselves with open minds to see what other traditions might have to offer?
Sorita: God doesn’t belong to a religion. I have a very strong adherence to this simple
truth, no church or synagogue or coven or temple can “own” God! Rather, I believe that all good religious
traditions are united in their search for an understanding and experience of
God, or ‘the Divine’. My views on this
has been formed since my own childhood when I was raised in quite opposite
manifestations of the Christian church – on the one hand the bells, whistles
and smells of the Roman Catholic Church and on the other, the stark strict and
blank walls of the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK) a type of Dutch
Protestant Church in South Africa. I was
in love with the idea of religion from a very young age, probably fuelled by
some of the extremist views which members of the NGK tried enforcing on my
naturally wild, free and rebellious spirit.
So I would often sneak out on a Sunday on my bicycle and go looking for
different churches to explore as a teenager,
only ever being turned down by the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
- most likely for being a naive 14 year old turning up on a bicycle with very
short denim shorts and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt!
The Divine for me can be found with and without religion, and different
religious traditions might provide us with some of the know-how of how to learn
about and maybe even how to glimpse the Divine, but ultimately we have to free
ourselves from the need of being in a box and limiting ourselves (and whilst
circumstance sometimes place us in those boxes, ultimately we have a choice on
whether or not we choose to break down or climb out of the boxes). I love boxes, you can put things in them
which you need from time to time and some boxes can be utterly beautiful – but
I prefer to look at them from the outside, admire their beauty, open them up
and look at the content – take inspiration from it, and maybe even take a few
things from it to use elsewhere. But
TWPT: What did your initiation into the Alexandrian Tradition in 1992 represent to you in terms of where you were on your spiritual path? Did you see this as having arrived or simply another marker along your spiritual journey?
Sorita: I understand “initiation” to mean “beginning” – so for me rather than marking a step on my spiritual or magical development, my initiation into Alexandrian Craft was my beginning within that tradition. The decision to be initiated into a magical tradition, is much like deciding whether or not to accept a job offer, or an invitation to dinner with someone you are attracted to. Whilst for some that job offer will turn out to be a life changing decision, for others it might be something they find doesn’t work out and move on from pretty quickly.
It changed the path I was on – because if I didn’t meet the person who first introduced me to the Craft – my life would have gone down different avenues which were open to me at the time – and I can say with certainly, if that was the case I would not have been doing this interview with you today.
For me the Craft contains aspects of Magic Mysticism and Religion; and I
don’t think I can ever “arrive” in the way that people describe the idea of
TWPT: Another important event happened in your life in 1999 when you met David. Spiritually speaking did you see at that time the synergies that were at play as your individual paths converged?
Sorita: In some ways meeting David in the Atlantis Bookshop in 1999 was another of those moments which I remember because at the time it felt so familiar and natural for two complete strangers to stand talking passionately for probably nearly two hours about incenses and oils. It would be another year until we saw each other again, and some months before we finally decided to go for a fruit smoothie! At the time I was exploring different magical traditions in London, having recently ended a long-term relationship and the Craft was probably the last thing I thought I would return to, but because at the time it was incredibly important to David, things clicked into place and by the end of 2000 we were running a small training circle which grew into an awesome group of people which were initiated into our first coven from 2001 onwards.
Many amazing things happened in those first years – magical and mystical experiences which could fill volumes, some now seem like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster, and others which still make us chuckle. From the moment we started working together though it was clear that we would both challenge each other significantly in terms of beliefs, practices and work ethic – we became each others’ teachers, as well as Priestess and Priest, and of course partners.
TWPT: How do you envision yours and David’s role in the encouragement of initiates that come to you in helping them to discover and pursue a path that is unique and individual to them? How is it that the two of you facilitate this growth without imposing any of your own goals on the initiate in the process?
Sorita: To find a balance between what one need as a teacher, and the demands and needs of students can be incredibly difficult. For me the most important factor to awaken within a student is their ability to question themselves, as well as their environment – including myself as their teacher. Of course expecting someone to question themselves can and does have different effects on different people, depending on where they are in their own development. “Know Thyself” was the axiom inscribed above the gates into famed Temple at Delphi, where the Oracle would speak for the God Apollo and is something repeated many times by teachers and writers – simple and easy as it sounds however, for some it can be an obstacle which is simple too difficult, or too painful to overcome. It also encourages us to stay our own course, regardless and in spite of, what others try and tell us to do. But this is not a blind, desire or ego-led stubbornness keeping us on our course, but rather an informed desire and will to achieve our goals, lead by self-knowledge. To do so is to take full responsibility for ones own actions, ones own successes and full responsibility – on all levels – for ones own failures and disasters.
TWPT: With all of this activity swirling around you were you already writing by this time? When was it that you started to think along the lines of publishing your work?
Sorita: David and I both started writing before we met each other. In fact David’s first book had already been published in 1997 and he had been contributing articles to occult journals and magazines since the 1980’s. Much of the work we produced in the early years in London has still not been published, and exists as piles of notebooks and papers and hundreds of files on computer hard drives in storage only for now.
TWPT: Tell me about your life as a researcher and what role it plays in terms of your coven interaction and your work as an author.
Sorita: Knowing others who share your passion for the Mysteries and for mythology, folklore and religious history does of course provide one with a wonderful sounding board when you are researching a subject. Likewise, I am fortunate to know a great many people who are experts in their respective fields which when I am working on projects I sometimes call on to help clarify or gain insight into a particular aspect, or just to gain a better – more rounded - perspective.
Whilst I served for many years as a High Priestess of a Coven, and at one point more than one Coven simultaneously, I stepped down from that role a few months after the birth of our son in late 2007. Alexandrian Craft will always have a special place in my heart and soul, but my work since the late 1990’s has also involved participation in a number of other traditions which for the foreseeable future is taking precedent.
I currently serve as the ‘Master of the Temple’ in the Order of the Ineffable Flame, and as High Priestess in a Temple which is part of the StarStone Network David and I founded when we lived in London. In late 2010 I set up an organisation dedicated to the Goddess Hekate, simply named The Covenant of Hekate (www.hekatecovenant.com) which is bringing people together from around the world who share an interest and passion for the three-formed Goddess of the Crossroads, who is also the Cosmic World Soul and Soteira. Between these commitments, running a business, writing, studying and raising a child I don’t actually have time for much else!
TWPT: With so much information about most any subject floating around either in libraries or in cyberspace how is it that you choose what it is that you want to research and how long do you spend immersed in a subject before you feel that you know it well enough to teach or write about it?
Sorita: The subjects David and I have written on are all subjects we have been interested in, in one way or another, for many years. Sometimes whilst emerged in research on one subject, you start finding clues about other interesting things, and as a result we often gather research on more than one subject at the same time – and quite often this is an ongoing process for many years after a book or article has been published. Knowledge is a living thing, and no one person is ever likely to know everything there is to know about one historical subject.
We are fortunate in that we have been able to pursue our research and work full-time for more than a decade now, building on our experience and knowledge of our own respective paths before. Of course we have a passion for our work, and it is not unusual for us to work between 10 and 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Having a passion for your work can be a negative!
TWPT: Thanks so much Sorita for taking the time out to talk to us here at TWPT. Wishing you much success in the years to come.