This week it is my sincere pleasure to share an Interview with the Author of “Witchcraft: Theory and Practice” and High Priestess of the Covenant of WildWood Gate in Australia. Ly de Angeles is an internationally recognized author winning awards for both her visionary fiction and film.
Thank you so very much Ly for letting us ask you a few questions.
Q: On your website you mention, “I wish to acknowledge the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation in whose country I now live.” So, my first question is if you can tell me more about these people and share some experience of time you may have spent with them? How have they enhanced your magic?
A: I acknowledge the First Nation People because it is the honorable thing to do. I abhor the rape and decimation of indigenous nations. It has always been done, I know. Although my studies of such only go back to Rome’s invasions of Europe and Britain (the Norse did so previously but never to the same extent) all of Europe, Africa, Canada, USA, Polynesia, South America, New Zealand, Australia. Bullets and beads, oh, and missionaries set about destroying ways as ancient and sustainable as time. It affects me to the marrow, the injustice of it all.
I had no contact with indigenous people until I moved to Byron Bay in the north back in 1991. I have potent contacts up that way, with both Kadaicha and Featherfoot of more than one country, all with their own tragedies.
It happened to my ancestors at the hands of Rome and yet, until I recently wrote Priteni, the telling of that story has always been an oral thing. David, long-time friend, once lover, is the son of an indigenous woman (I do not have permission to say more) from NSW but his father was a Scotsman, and a brutal drunk. He was ashamed of his white blood.
“You give us a wasteland and call it peace…” I quoted to him. “What?” he asked. I repeated the quote. “Who said that?” “Calgacus. Your ancestor,” I replied. “Before the battle against Rome.” He watched me for a while without responding. Considering I don’t know what. Then he said “You give me back my dignity.”
Currently the Australian constitution does not recognise the First Nations as even existing and it is only a few years since the term Terra Nullius was abolished thanks to Eddie Mabo. Acknowledgement before any event, within any work, is both an emotional and a political statement by a strong movement of us here. The Recognise Campaign. There’s no reason anyone reading this doesn’t join us either. Don’t care what country. There are many countries in what the invaders call Australia, and they are all different. Same in USA? Are the First Nations acknowledged thus there? No. I know. I’ve checked. It took a lot of bloodshed in Ireland for the language to be revived, for the landscape to be named in the language of the indigenous people. Same in Wales. Hmm. Long way to go. So much harm done.
I have shared the stories of the subjugated Priteni tribes with indigenous people here in Australia. Because almost nobody knows about us no one told them, ever. Did you learn about Boudega in school? No. Were you taught about The Pale? So most with whom I have spoken just thought us pompous, self-righteous invaders, taking from them their identities and replacing them with Christianity, chains or death, stealing them from their families and giving them English names. In my book The Feast of Flesh and Spirit I wrote a piece called Slaughterhouse Creek. Hope you take a moment to read it.
Q: Priteni sounded so wonderful I went to Amazon and ordered it right off. My father’s family is from Scotland and Ireland and I have embraced my Celtic roots, but your 30 years of research is certainly my next question. What has kept you inspired and amazed for 30 years researching the history of the Celts?
A: I’m a white woman. I’ve never made sense, even to myself. I know I am indigenous to somewhere but I have never known where. I have been a scholar-witch all my life. What is our anthropology when we do not fall within the bounds of acceptable, culturally? I know I am not indigenous to this land. I honour and respect it but I will not lie and pretend it is my land. I have shallow bones buried here. A mother, perhaps a father (although I’ll never know him), perhaps two grandparents, although they could have returned to England, I’ll never know that either. The bones of my ancestors are dominantly Priteni, in the northern lands of the Brigantians and the Catuvallauni. And in France, back to 1207 (a hundred years before the start of the Inquisition) and, like you sister, in Ireland and Scotland although the stories of these people are yet to be written by me. So it’s been a search for truth and identity, really. I don’t do delusion well at all and if there’s a true story to be found, rather than what we hope or want, I’ll hunt it down if I can.
Now… As for that (and here I go offending an entire raft of people, yet again) the same applies to that which I revere. Dion Fortune and so many who have written after her (including me, so I will clear all this up here) said “All gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess and there is but one initiator.” What’s that? She, Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders, and so very many that have written since, have postulated just this. It’s a meme. And it incorporates merges and morphs very, very diverse cultural and ethnic spiritualities and mysteries into a hodge-podge amalgamation of anthropomorphic deities. It is just plain incorrect. Witchcraft Theory and Practice. That’s 101. When we truly grow up we have to ask the question Are we not trading one form of religion for another. And the answer is yes.
Even before I encountered the mind-shattering awareness that I have come to know over, particularly, the last twelve years I had that rough-around-the-edges feeling that there was more to witchcraft than mimicking the memes that others, of a relatively modern society and predominantly Christian society, have presented. Of deity names ad hoc and ad nauseum. Without deep scholarship or deeper contemplation. Yeats once wrote “Naming is treacherous because naming divides truths into half-truths making them a coffin of counters. Be careful. Give the spell no name.” And so it is.
Down the pages of history. Discovering the myths and legends of Europe, Ireland, England before it became England, France when the tribe dwelling in what is now known as Paris is the Parisi, the Belgae to the north, the Caledonii in what is now Scotland. Finding the lore of the Fir Bolg, knowing that the Dumnonii (the people of contemporary Cornwall) provided the tin for the Bronze Age that went as far as China along the Old Silk Road. All spoken of as though dead and gone. All recounted in the past tense as though we are, in essence, extinct.
Do witches need to know this? Who am I to say? What have I unearthed, though, when it comes to meeting and truly communing with this Mystery that others call gods and goddesses? That I now will not? It’s sovereignty! Of all the Priteni tribes the one I studied the most—and one cannot really know a people unless one goes to the land in which they are now rock and headland, river and sparrow—was the Brigantians (present-day Lancashire/Yorkshire). Because it is written that their goddess is Brigid and isn’t that strange? Why? Is ‘she’ the same as in Ireland? The answer is no. Brigid, named for the tribe, is the Pennines. The word is roughly ‘high one’ and she/he/them is/are genus loci. Now this is really important. The people are the land, you see? Since before when? When not, perhaps. The Pennines are mountains, rivers, wells, shelter, and boar and stag and bear and every healing plant and every necessary poison and visionary mushroom. Interwoven. Summer following spring. Trees communicating through colour and sap. Salmon and wolves, bears and golden hunting eagles, hare and hounds. That’s it. You see it. Pipers and drummers. There yet?
When people lump it all together, invoke Kali and Isis, or say that Asherah and Diana are the same, what is removed from our language is the uniqueness, not only of the people of the region where this genus loci and they intertwined, but the knowledge they have to share with us who are not them. What we have are stories and stories keep us curious. Take something for granted and we become complacent.
When we live with the delusion of separation how can magic really work? Without the consensual agreement of the whole that is the sovereign space of existence?
Even here in Melbourne, and remember this is not my ancestral anything, I know that if I travel ten suburbs from my home I am in another country. One can feel these secret, unseen borderlands. Who set them? No one. They are there. They are leys, dragon-lines. I know I need to get onto your next question but if I may conclude by including aspects of your first question regarding the Wurundjeri, or the Bunjalung, or the Dja Dja Wurrung people, or the Ojibwa, Navaho, Comanche, Maori, Brigantii, Tuatha de Danann, Scythian people, Samé… I could go on… is that we know because we have been earth since before earth became earth. I realise that’s an assumption because even now the theory of the Big Bang is being torn to shreds but… because nothing comes from nothing we have, in our DNA, the knowledge of our eternity. Therefore we should not be slack and accept only what modern texts tell us about anything, let alone what it is to be witch.
If it has the taint of religion about it, it is suspect.
Q: You say that “one of the heroes is a great, great grandfather.” Could I enquire one awesome resource and some advice for our readers and myself you might share on researching your family lineage and roots?
A: My friend of thirty four years, Bernard Casimir, is a renowned genealogist. We share a hundred year old house with Helen and a cat named Pi. Bernard’s work is painstaking but he’s been doing it for forty years. All genealogical work is painstaking because it (again) is so easy to make shit up for the sake of an identity. He’s hunting through parish registers from four hundred years ago, translating wills and notaries from the 12th century. Following riverbeds that never disappear from the landscape. Sure, they can be rerouted by such things as the Great Famine, the Black Plague, the Holocaust, but tributaries exist that can become major rivers into the depths of who you are. Language has changed, letters are almost unrecognisable. It’s quite a craft. I’m an adopted person and began the hunt (originally) for my true time of birth so I could get an accurate astrological chart. Over years more and more information came to light by the organisation peering into all this on my behalf. I met my biological mother once. I did not like her and never communicated with her after. She is now dead. Through documentation about her birth time/place and that of her parents Bernard was able to trace four distinct lineages. All that is required to begin the process is the birth/death certificates of one’s biological parent/s and their parents.
What happens as a result of unearthing all these people is the surety of a vastly deep history. It changes you. To know your identity from five hundred years ago, two thousand? Realising just how many people are of the same line. All of us in this house are related. How’s that? Your best friends, your coven? It’s like waking all those dead up in your own veins. Death loses any power over you.
Q: You mention, in your bio, of two near-death experiences (drowning and electrocution). Can you elaborate? I know there is a story here.
A: No, not really. Not about them per se. I was eleven. It was an astonishing year. Everything that could possibly have happened that year did happen (including my first taste of renown). It was like a ‘quickening’ psychically, emotionally and with my writing. I’ve since almost died countless times in this one body! It’s almost hilarious that I’m still here.
Q: I loved reading about your getting lost in nature as a kid, being a book addict and your wonderful grandmother. What is your best memory of your grandmother or time spent with her?
A: When I first met her? The smell of her. She smelled of violets. As well as reading cards and tealeaves she managed the Rembrandt Hotel in Kings Cross. That hotel also smelled exotic. Of old sandstone and deep, cool outdoor gardens. It smelled of the pleasure had there in those early days. All the jazz and blues musicians on R & R during the Second World War stayed there. It was an exquisite art deco building with ceramic naked women supporting globe lights along art-hung hallways, the old gaslights still on the walls, concertina elevator doors of polished brass with a boy on a stool wearing a little red hat working the levers. The smells of her hotel. The sight of her in fox furs. The gift of a Maori paua shell bracelet (she’d lived in New Zealand before immigrating to Sydney). Later, when she lived with us, her humor and her readings that were so accurate they were deadly. My favorite memory, however, was after she was dead. She’d predicted it the week before but I just didn’t understand. She’d read my teacup and said that between now and next Tuesday your mother is going to be extremely upset by events beyond her control. It wasn’t the death, however. When my mother went to set up funeral arrangements and have Marion’s body transferred to the funeral home to do what they do she was told there wasn’t one. My grandmother had donated herself to science and had already been sent off to a university. My mother cremated an empty coffin.
Q: Byron Bay is gorgeous, and reminds me of Cornwall. How did you end up there, and is it magical?
A: How funny. It’s nothing like Cornwall from my perspective. More like Ibiza! I lived there for 22 years and there’s a tale of great mystery and magic to be told about the getting there but we’d be here all day so I won’t. It is a magical place, yes, and in saying that I wish to acknowledge the Arakwal people of the Bunjalung Nation. It’s their country and it’s been returned to them.
When I first moved my entire family there in 1991 it was into the belly of magic. It was strong for almost two decades and I had a whopper of a coven, produced and directed several shows, raised my kids, worked with teens in trouble to learn the arts, and I wrote several books. Consumerism is now rampant and the greedy paw over the dead flesh of honesty like maggots. Too many drugs, too many failed dreams. Too much exclusivity. Too many secret beatings, ice, pot that’s had the antipsychotic, CBD, bred out of it. Schizophrenia. Suicide. My sons and their children are still there. I am in Melbourne now. Coming on three years in December ’15.
Q: Iaido, the sword skills of the Samurai warriors sounds fascinating and I want to enquire, how has your martial arts blended with or enhanced your witchcraft and magic?
A: I’m a very physical woman. Tactile. Also curious. Point a sword, point an athamé. No difference. I also love weights and still work out at a gym three days a week. Oh, I’m 64 next month. Iaido, Hapkido, Aikido and MMA. Worked them all. I learned to kill and defend, yes, but then I realised I needed more so I did a senior first aid certificate (brown snakes around Byron Bay. They’ll kill you if you don’t know how to bandage the limb bitten) so I knew how to set a bone or resuscitate a person in cardiac arrest. Then I joined the Regional Emergency Road Rescue Squad and drove a truck and stood with a cop, holding a blanket to keep the sight-seers from staring at the boy whose legs were crushed by a side-swipe, listening to the ambos’ no-nonsensing him into hope, then taking his mother aside so they could do their job and she wouldn’t have to panic. None of them stared at the tattoos on my face; the cops just said “Thank god you’re here.” I love the challenge of learning a new skill. That’s magic, you know, among other things. Wonder. It’s why I turned my hand to film making (got a company: Full Story Productions and new writing styles (my crime thriller has won an award in Canada and been published in The Crime Factory but you’ll note I haven’t hyperlinked it. It’s a shocker! Oh and growing food. Cooking is my new magic and I have a blog.
Q: What advice do you have for someone interested in embracing Native American culture and how to approach learning from elders where we live?
A: One can’t embrace it unless one is Native American. We can learn from them everything they are willing to teach but no one should push. White people haven’t earned the right. That’s important. To accept responsibility. Has anyone apologized? No. Obama is focusing some of his attention on this small path to acknowledging how very wrong the slaughter, the erasure of culture, John Wayne. Same applies to the slave trade of African Americans and that continuing injustice. I learned a while back about intergenerational trauma. We all suffer it. The disregarded and disenfranchised more than any. Thank you for asking that question.
Kallan also had a couple of questions….
Q: How does the indigenous view differ from that of mainstream Wicca and other Pagan belief systems?
A: I’m indigenous to both the Brigantians and Catuvallauni people of the lands of the Priteni. I can’t speak for everyone but walking the walk is the bottom line. Everything to do with knowledge and silence. The more we talk without good reason the less the voices of those who really need to be heard will be heard. That’s not just people. That’s species. The white rhino. How many left? Three? The water off the coast of Rio Doce in Brazil? The hole in the ozone above me? Those sinkholes in Siberia? Fukushima? We’re all facing peril. Witches. Pagans. We’re beheaded in Saudi Arabia. Massacred in New Guinea, Haiti and parts of Africa. Most mock us as useless or non-existent or dress their children in black pointy hats and paint their faces green at what they call Halloween, our most austere and potent cycle of Samhain (which, by the way, is the end of April in Australia… and still parents help dress their children in ghoulish garb and send them out to beg for sugar… a little creepy don’t you think, when we usually suggest they don’t talk to strangers?).
We do not use our voices as indigenous people of earth. Too many still do Christmas. Not enough know their own bones or are really useful. Wicca has become mainstream, yes. I am not Wiccan. I respect anyone’s right to believe what they do to a degree. Respect is an earned thing. Paganism is a very generic word. Witch embraces the word ‘heretic’ and anarchy (the right to challenge mainstream concepts of authority)
Q: You often speak of the earth having a conversation with us. Can you expound on this a bit for our readers? What advice would you have for those who want to listen/respond, but don’t know how?
A: I try not to give advice. Haha. Probably all of the above. I appreciate the chance to share a conversation about these matters. Okay. You asked. Everybody should grow enough organic food to share with others. Know where food comes from, stop Big Corp from poisoning us with pre-packaged food by taking your cloth bag to the fish monger, the green grocer, the butcher. Ask them to wrap your goods in paper not plastic. Get rid of plastic. Food and drug companies are in the cancer-making market. They’re killing you. Stop consuming, start hunting, Be fussy. Love the life of what you eat. Find out how your meat or fish is killed. Where it’s from. Don’t buy from supermarkets. Don’t feed your kids junk. Get away from your mobile phones and read Toxin Toxout so you know where your possessions come from, what they do to you and your family, where they end up. Learn to talk to dogs. Ride a horse. Climb things to find out if you’re as strong on the outside as you are on the inside. Shame the man who hurts his wife or kids. Have an opinion about gender and sexuality but don’t judge unless it concerns the abuse of children. Be kind to one another. Be kind anyway. Knowledge is masterful. Knowledge is magic. Make your own athamé, your own wand, your own grimoire.
When we accept responsibility for what we even think we are clearing silent spaces for earth to communicate. Stop considering that aliens create crop circles. Earth is talking. Showing us the incredible power of communication. If we don’t listen to the weather? Oh my… Proactive in meaningful ways.
One can cast a ritual circle and make a wand from willow withies, can celebrate Llughnassad and the cycles of the moon. And cast spells. For what? You think they’re going to work? They do, but do you know why? The whole point of being witch is responsibility in the true meaning of the word. Is to hold a mirror with the glass facing out because we have looked so far within we’re game enough. Being the person that children ask questions of because they know we won’t lie and if we don’t know then at least we can say so. The shaman, the sorcerer. My grandchildren know me as witch. I feed them exquisite food and stories. At Midsummer and Midwinter, when everyone from educators to double base and sax players bring laughter and food to our house, the kids are embraced and included. They know Christmas is a cultural lie; are freaked out at the worship of the image of a tortured, agonized dead man, kept perpetually alive in the imagination, and of his daddy who supposedly set the scene. What does that say of our society?
While the spine of Witchcraft: Theory and Practice was/is always about the depths of our behavior and knowledge it was also, really written for beginners. The teaching is much different in the coven as we destroy the anthropomorphism of indoctrinated deity moving more and more into indigenous occult understanding, therefore removing the elitism that religion implies. Some of that book was more wiccan than witch.