The Author's Corner
The Ancient Modern Witch: The Halloween Lecture
Positive Magic: Occult Self-Help
Earth Magic: A Dianic Book of Shadows and A Guide for Witches
The Ancient Modern Witch:
TWPT: Tell me a little about what you would consider your Spiritual Path to be. How is it you became a Witch?
MW: I must have been born with it into this lifetime because I can remember back to age 3 that I just knew I was a Witch. So it must have been from someplace else, some other time. It got more intense as I got older and I did a lot of research in high school and college that helped me define my Path.
TWPT: What is it like being a Witch in New York as opposed to being a Witch in the country?
MW: I have no clue of what it is like to be a Witch in the country. Twenty-five years ago being a Witch in New York was a little bit difficult and because I was on radio, it was wonderful and terrible at the same time. I was working at WBAI-FM in 1969, when I came out of the closet on the air. It was a highly political radio station that supported gay and lesbian rights very early on before anybody had even heard of that. They had radical politics there so I thought I could come out and it would be perfectly fine. But guess what? All those radical people who believed in complete political freedom had a problem with it. Eventually it worked out and they came around over a period of years, but in the beginning it was very difficult. I live outside the city a lot these days but I do still live in the city just not as much.
In the city one is less in touch with nature but one is more in touch with the rhythms of people and culture. For example, I would go up on the roof of my apartment house and draw down the moon, and at the full moon you would hear cars crashing and sirens blaring.
TWPT: Are there any kinds of places in the city, like greenhouses and parks, where you can find comfort?
MW: Yes, absolutely. My coven and I have spent a lot of time in Riverside Park and some time in Central Park, near the Hudson River and of course, the roof tops. These are magical spaces, incredible spaces. I don't even know what the Karma is of these places, but the trees in Riverside Park can practically talk to you, in fact, they do talk to you.
TWPT: So are there communities in the city that move together and talk together and interact?
MW: There are many covens in New York City. Now it's very fashionable in the city to be a Witch. There are many feminist groups, mixed groups and some lovely shops too. Enchantments is one of my favorite shops and there are nice Witches running the store. I give lectures and Halloween shows around the city and lots of Witches come. We have a good Witchcraft community.
TWPT: Having written Earth Magic Dianic Book of Shadows, do you consider yourself a Dianic Witch?
MW: I consider myself a Dianic Witch. I called myself Dianic before it was known as a feminist Path. I always felt that I was primarily involved with Diana, that's my primary alignment.
TWPT: What would the difference be between what you consider Dianic Witchcraft and the ones that have claimed the name, the feminist branch?
MW: They claim the name that's fine. They are Dianic Witches, and there are many different kinds. My Coven has men in it and as far as I know that's the main distinction.
TWPT: The term Witch, Wicca and Witchcraft sort of get tossed around as interchangeable terms. Do you think they are the same thing or is there a difference?
MW: In this culture it's still safer to call yourself a Wiccan. It's more politically correct if you will and it doesn't come up against the stereotype quite as blatantly.
TWPT: So it's pretty much a cover term?
MW: In my opinion that's what it boils down to.
TWPT: They don't want to stir up the controversy that's associated with the term Witch.
MW: It depends on who you are talking to, but immediately you have to clear the air. You don't worship the devil, you don't turn people into frogs. A very meaningful conversation is put on hold while you take care of that stuff. So when you say Wiccan or Wiccan Priestess, it comes out cleaner.
TWPT: It doesn't have the same images associated with it.
MW: And the images are completely inaccurate and in a way its braver to suppress the stereotyping and plow right through it.
TWPT: Deal with the reaction you are going to get and have a chance to explain it?
MW: Otherwise people will say well, she's a Wiccan, she's not a Witch. And I want to say "Witches don't work with Satan either."
TWPT: Being open as you are do you still get a lot of flak for being a Witch or saying you are a Witch?
MW: First of all, I don't walk around announcing it so when I'm in my other life, doing animal rescues, shopping, business, whatever things I'm doing, I don't announce "I'm a Witch" every where I go. People ask me what my pentagram is, I sometimes tell them, and sometimes I say "It's good luck". I don't announce it everywhere because I think that's ridiculous. People don't walk around saying "I'm Christian, I'm Jewish, I'm Muslim. Hello, how are you?" They don't do that. But if it comes out, I'm there and sometimes it's difficult. I have had problems inside the WitchCraft community, for putting down Aleister Crowley or any of the things I feel very strongly about. I've had some scary experiences with interviews. I did one for Halloween on a fundamentalist Christian radio station and It was really scary. I'd say it was one of the scariest things I've ever encountered. It was like the middle ages revisited, probably a Karmic reenactment.
TWPT: That was pretty brave even agreeing to do that one.
MW: I only did the one. I don't think I will ever do another one. If there is a good reason and you know your work will not get distorted, then it is important to do interviews.
TWPT: So if you know you are walking into a loaded situation, at least you can be shielded and prepared.
MW: Yes, prepare yourself.
TWPT: Are there any writings of other people who have influenced your beliefs over the years?
MW: Doreen Valiente very much and Merlin Stone.
TWPT: In what ways and which books?
MW: Valiente's ABC of Witchcraft, which I thought was a wonderful book when I was just starting to explain myself on radio. I found it very helpful. I don't think that its in print now, but I recommend it highly in all my work. She also wrote Natural Magic. Merlin Stone's book is called When God Was a Woman. I can't think of any other Witch who has impressed me as much as Doreen Valiente. She is a pure hereditary Witch and she is the real thing. There was a time I was real close to Elizabeth Pepper, who is also a hereditary Witch. She does the Witches Almanac. She is an American hereditary Witch as opposed to Doreen who is English. We shared allot and I was very interested and happy to learn about her Tradition (Family Tradition). Imagine being brought up in it.
TWPT: It would be interesting to be brought up in a family tradition and be taught the ways of the Craft from the very beginning.
MW: Actually, there is a young woman who was a baby when we founded the Coven and who grew up in it. It has been great for her.
TWPT: I've noticed in one of your books, Positive Magic, you spoke about the "Words of Power". Could you tell me a little about that and how it works?
MW: There are traditions of various kinds of affirmations in every culture, where you don't supplicate the Deity, you affirm that you are part of the Deity. Sometimes there are limitations built into the work.
I go back to Isis, who is also one of my Alignments, and there is a quote in E. Wallis Budge (Gods of the Egyptians) where Isis says "I am the Lady of Words of Power, Come to me for my Words have Power." She then goes on to say how she manifests things. I have encountered the same thing in the I Ching, in #37. (This is how I do my research, I am very eclectic.) #37 talks about how ones words must have power. I have studied some of the so-called science religions because they do affirmations. Although they are very good, some of them are Christ (Jesus) oriented. I learned from those textbooks and I also studied with a teacher for a while. I saw the sequence of that kind of affirmation of aligning oneself with Deity. So I just retranslated it and aligned myself with my Deities, not the patriarchal Deity. The patriarchal DEITY, in my opinion, used to have tremendous limitations built into the concept of what and who that Deity is. So if one aligns oneself with that Deity, one is also aligning oneself with all the limitations that have been traditionally assigned to relationships with that Deity. So if one aligns oneself with a patriarchal, repressive, punishing and rewarding Deity, then one is putting those limitations into one's work. Even if one is doing incredibly advanced effective prayer, aligning oneself with this patriarchal Deity can lower the prayer into supplicating and/or entreating and that goes into the work. So I try really hard to eliminate any limitations in my work and that is what my "Words of Power" work is about.
TWPT: What kind of role does ritual play in your life?
MW: More and more. I used to be so happy with public ritual on radio. I still do public ritual on Halloween and ritual with my Coven, that's very important, but I have this theory that daily life is ritual and that one can be transformed by daily experiences. I never do anybody else's rituals, for example, if I read them in a book. I may participate with a group, but only if I agree with their work.
TWPT: That makes sense because we always tell everyone that visits TWPT that ritual is born of the individual and has nothing to do with what I send you or tell you to do.
MW: You can give guidelines but if you follow somebody else's words, no matter how brilliant or wonderful they are, they create a diminishment of personal power.
TWPT: Because you are using their words and their ideas?
MW: You are giving away your own authority, your own creativity. So it's always important to understand it and to tailor it to yourself.
TWPT: Do you still do comedy?
MW: Yes, I still do standup. Not as much as I used to. I want to do it more but my writing has been so time consuming. I always, always do standup on Halloween.
TWPT: Are you still doing that in the clubs around New York City?
TWPT: Do you find that the comedy helps to communicate the truths of Witchcraft a little better, in a more relaxed kind of atmosphere.
MW: I don't know. I mainly do comedy for other witches. I haven't reached large audiences yet so I don't know.
TWPT: So its a predominately Witch/Pagan audience that you perform for.
MW: I always work for people who know who I am. I haven't really reached the general population.
TWPT: Do you think there is a certain amount of actress or actor in most people who end up in leadership roles within or with out the Wiccan/Pagan community?
MW: I don't know, that's a good question. I don't think that performing is necessarily leadership. As a performer, and as a priestess, I can tell you I don't think they are the same. You can be the most incredible introvert and be a leader, and not be putting on a show. Although I do believe that ritual and theater were once the same thing.
TWPT: In your beliefs there is a Goddess and a God. Are they both equals in your system?
MW: The God is a consort, which doesn't mean he is less but that he is just different, according to my way of relating. We capitalize Him and Her always.
TWPT: Some people believe that there is equality between the God and Goddess. Was WitchCraft begun as a Goddess oriented religion?
MW: I believe so, but many Goddess oriented religions have a male God. Just because one worships the Goddess does not mean that there is no God. Today, many women prefer that. According to my research, most Goddess religions have some relationship with a God. Some as consort, some as husband, but usually some sort of relationship.
TWPT: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the Wiccan/ Pagan/ Witch community where you are in New York City over the next 10 years? Is there something that may be a problem or could be a great advantage for you over the next few years? Any Challenges?
MW: The challenge for Witches everywhere is to keep the religion on the high road and to keep it from slipping into pettiness, gossip and slander. I was really shocked at some of the material I have heard as of late. That is the challenge. We shouldn't do that sort of thing because it will come back to us three fold. That's very important within the WitchCraft community because it is very embarrassing to see that kind of thing. And it is very important to bring the principals of WitchCraft into the culture. That is already happening because environmentalism and women's rights, children's right, animal rights and a healthy respect for the earth, are all concerns of the WitchCraft community. This is all from Gaia Worship, Paganism and WitchCraft as they influence the culture in which we live. It would be really nice to carry that agenda forward and not to proselytize in our efforts to encourage it and bring it forward.
TWPT: Do you think there is a loose knit kind of Pagan/Wiccan community scattered around the country and is it beginning to coalesce?
MW: Yes, definitely. Are you familiar with Circle out in Wisconsin? They have a lot to do with networking. They should get allot of credit for keeping things going.
TWPT: Is there anything thing that we can do to help that along as far as promoting community?
MW: I believe when you do something in your own life the vibrations and the influence of that goes out into the world. So, we should all live according to the three fold law and be as wonderful Witches as we possibly can be without advertising it. I really believe that this is going to change the world. I know that many Buddhists believe that just by meditating you can change the environment and bring peace to the area that you are in. In a way, I believe that's true for us too. We should just practice our Craft (with a capitol C) in as pure a fashion as we can and live our lives that way, without saying negative things. I think by doing this it will really, really influence the world. I also think that on holidays we should do rituals for world peace, world hunger and for helping the environment. That is what our Coven does already. We should work on the full moons and new moons for the earth and the war torn areas. I am a strong believer in doing magic for the greater community.
TWPT: How does magic fit into the average Wiccan/Pagan belief system? I have heard several definitions of magic over the years and I was interested in your views.
MW: Magic is what we do instead of prayer, it is how we make changes in our own lives and help do changes in other peoples lives. It's a way of transforming things by means of will and intention and according to natural law.
TWPT: What would you say to those who dabble in negative magic as opposed to positive magic?
MW: You can't dabble in negative magic. If you even touch it, one is doing it and it is the most dangerous, harmful and stupid thing a person could do. Many of us have made mistakes in our lives but knowingly to work negative magic, is inexcusable and besides it doesn't accomplish anything. There is no need for it, when one does magic in a positive and life affirming way, it is much more effective magic. There is no backfire, there is no fallout and it always hits its mark. Positive magic always succeeds where negative magic blows up in the magician's face.
TWPT: When you write your books, what is it that you hope to accomplish with them once they are published and out on the market.
MW: I get many responses from people saying, "I always had a feeling about this way of life. I never knew it existed until I read your book and then it rang a bell for me. Now I feel like I can live this way." I feel that mainly there have been terrible disturbances and crimes done in our culture to people in a spiritual way. By taking magic out of the culture and saying it was of the devil, turned the best minds toward other things and away from magic. So magic continues to get a bad rap while not helping people the way it could have and I think everyone has suffered because of it. I just want people to know that it exists as a way of life and it's a safe, joyful, effective and wonderful approach too. So, I just want as many people as possible to know about it, and books are a good way to do it.
TWPT: So you think if it hadn't been for circumstances of the times, magic would have progressed right along side the other sciences?
MW: Absolutely! Many great minds don't even know about magic. For example, what about Rupert Sheldrake, the physicist. I'd love him to know about magic. This parallels his work. At least he would have the option. Some people are very spiritual and want to be religious. They want to live in a spiritual and righteous way, especially women but all they have is something that limits them. Witches don't convert people but when I was on the air in New York, there was a group of Nuns in a convent who listened to my show and all of them became Witches. I found out about this years later. I don't set out to do that and that's not my point. It shows people that they have options, letting them know there is a choice. In many cases people don't even know there is a choice.
TWPT: You still do lectures, what kind of material do you cover in your typical lectures these days?
MW: I don't lecture as much as I would like to but there are workshops for "Tarot", "I Ching" and "Words of Power" with specific subjects and techniques. That's one thing.
TWPT: Do people contact you through Earth Magic Productions about doing a lecture for them?
MW: Yes, and we have a web site that you can visit by clicking on the name. Earth Magick Productions
TWPT: Tell me a little about Earth Magic Productions. Is this something you started?
MW: I started Earth Magic Productions in 1979 when I wrote my first version of Earth Magic, my first Book of Shadows, and published it myself. Merlin Stone told me if you want something with no editors to deal with, do it yourself. I was with Simon and Schuster at the time and they were difficult to work with, so I got a loan, and I formed "Earth Magic Productions. We only had the one book to start with but then I started mail ordering Positive Magic. I got another publisher but I kept Earth Magic Productions. We incorporated after Robin Bernardi joined me and that was/is a karmic partnership, a working partnership, that was formed 10 years ago. Now Robin's sister Beryl Bernardi is working with us too.
TWPT: Do you have any current projects or new projects you are working on?
MW: I am almost finished working on two instructional books for the Tarot and the I Ching which will be a Witch's approach to the subjects. I'm also finishing up a tape series on the Tarot, the I Ching, Words of Power and also Divination, which I call "Beyond Tea Leaves". So these projects will be available shortly.
TWPT: Do you think there are a lot of people who don't have these skills any more in the Wiccan/Pagan community and are these necessary skills to follow this Path?
MW: Most Witches I know are able to do these things but there is a deeper approach when you use your readings as a ritual. That is something I want to share with people.
TWPT: We would like to thank Ms. Weinstein for her time in talking to us. We enjoyed our conversation very much and found it to be enlightening and informative. Again, many thanks, and blessings.