Stewart Farrar: Wikis

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Stewart Farrar

Farrar in 1999, shortly before his death
Born 28 June 1916
Died 7 February 2000 (aged 83)
Ireland
Occupation Journalist; Wiccan Priest
Spouse(s) Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

Stewart Farrar (28 June 1916 – 7 February 2000) was an English writer of both fiction, (namely detective fiction) and non-fiction, (namely on the neopagan religion of Wicca). Along with his wife, Janet Farrar, he was an influential Neopagan author and teacher.

He was a High Priest of Alexandrian Wicca, and, according to George Knowles, "some seventy five percent of Wiccans both in the Republic and North of Ireland can trace their roots back to the Farrar's [sic]"[1]

Contents

Biography

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Early life and career

Farrar was born in Essex in 1916. He was raised as a Christian Scientist, but gave up the religion in favour of agnosticism at age twenty,[2] which he maintained until he became an adherent of witchcraft. Farrar attended the City of London School boys' school, and graduated from University College, London in 1937 with a degree in journalism. In college, Farrar had served both as president of the London University Journalism Union and editor of the London Union Magazine.[2] He was the first cousin of the poet James Farrar

In 1939, Farrar volunteered for service in the British Army.[2] He served as an instructor in Anti-aircraft gunnery during World War II,[2] and wrote an instruction manual for a Bofors gun.[3] After the war's end, Farrar, then a major, continued to work for the military in Germany as a civilian public relations and press officer for the Control Commission for Germany,[2] liaison to the German Coal Board.[4] Farrar was one of the first British officers to enter Auschwitz, an experience that Knowles claims "greatly influenced his personal and political beliefs".[4]

Farrar returned to England after 1947. He began his career in journalism, and from 1953 to 1954 worked in London's Reuters office. In 1954, Farrar joined the British Communist Party, and began reporting for the Daily Worker,[2] but left both the party and the paper in protest over the Soviet response to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.[4] For the six years following, Farrar worked for Associated British-Pathe and Associated British Corporation as a scriptwriter, and also did freelance work for the BBC. His writing for the BBC during the 1960s and 70's included the award-winning radio play "Watch the Wall my Darling", the children's television series "The Boy Merlin" and "Pity About the Abbey", a play for television which he co-wrote with poet John Betjeman.

Farrar published his first novel in 1958, The Snake on 99. By the end of 1963 Farrar had published two more detective novels, Zero in the Gate and Death in the Wrong Bed. Farrar also wrote a romance novel, Delphine, Be a Darling, also published in 1963.

In 1969, Farrar was once again working as a journalist, employed by the weekly newspaper Reveille. It was an assignment from this paper that would introduce Farrar to Wicca.

Involvement in Wicca

Farrar was sent by Reveille to a press screening of the film Legend of the Witches. The screening was also attended by Alex Sanders and Maxine Sanders, the founders of Alexandrian Wicca, who had served as advisors during the film's creation. According to his biography at mystica.com, Farrar was "skeptical about Witchcraft but was interested in Sanders upon meeting him".[2] The paper requested that Farrar interview Sanders and published the interview as a two-part story. Sanders, "impressed"[5] with the interview, invited Farrar to attend an Alexandrian Wiccan initiation ritual,[2] and prompted Farrar to write an entire book on Wicca.[5] According to mystica.com, Farrar "found the ceremony both dignified and moving".[2] Farrar began work on his first non-fiction book, What Witches Do, and began taking classes on witchcraft from the Sanders'. Maxine Sanders remembers Farrar as "a charming man, a sincere student with an active flexible mind".[6] Maxine Sanders also notes that it was in response to Farrar's questions about how to describe their practice in his book that the Alexandrian tradition was named[6].

On 21 February 1970 Farrar was initiated into Alexandrian Wicca and joined the Sanders' coven.[7] Farrar met his future wife, then Janet Owen (thirty-four years his junior), in the coven. Janet Farrar asserts that the couple were both elevated to the second degree "in an unoccupied house in Sydenham" by the Sanders on 17 October 1970, and that they received the third, and final, degree of initiation in their flat 24 April 1971. Two of Janet and Stewart's coven - 'Don and Barbara' were present, as were the Sanders coven. Janet Farrar remembers the initiation well, as Maxine invoked Sekhmet to banish one of her coven members. She broke her flail during this banishing. Recently their 3rd Degree initiation has been disputed by some Alexandrian "revisionists",[5] unaware that Stewart Farrar kept an archive of all his correspondences with the Sanders and possessed copies of both his own and the Sanders' coven records that unequivocally prove that the initiation took place. What Witches Do was published in 1971. The book has been called "controversial" because of Farrar's assertion that Sanders should be "ranked above Gerald B.Gardner and alongside of Aleister Crowley and Eliphas Levi in terms of magical achievement".[2] Farrar later backed away from the assessment, although he did later state that he believed that Sanders 'was both a charlatan and a genuine magician'. The relationship between Alex Sanders and Stewart Farrar became one of mutual respect after letters began to be exchanged between them in 1977. To quote Sanders (8 March 1997):

“Your letters give off good vibrations of work and happiness. I feel that all our growing pains concerning publicity and personalities of the Wicca, are beginning to bear fruit. A few of us in the midst of many are beginning to establish the foundation (I mean the building itself) on the raw materials, to get the foundation stone in place”.

They remained in dialogue until Alex Sanders' death in the late 1980s.

Farrar and Owen had begun running their own coven in 1971, before their third degree initiation ceremony, and were handfasted in 1972 and legally married in 1975.[5] The ceremony was attended by Farrar's two daughters and two sons from three previous marriages - his marriage to Owen was his sixth. The late 1970s saw the publication of several more novels by Farrar, all of which were occult-themed fantasy novels or science fiction. Farrar left Reveille to pursue a full-time freelance writing career in 1974. In 1976 the Farrars moved to Ireland to get away from the busy life of London.[7] They lived in County Mayo and County Wicklow, finally settling in "Herne Cottage" in Kells, County Meath. Both husband and wife went on to publish a number of "classic" and "influential"[7] books on the Wiccan religion and on coven practises. Their 1981 Eight Sabbats for Witches included material the authors claimed to be from the Alexandrian tradition's Book of Shadows.[8] The Farrars, with the support of Doreen Valiente, argued in the book that even though the publishing of this material broke their oath of secrecy, it was justified by the need to correct misinformation.[8] Janet Farrar indicates that some of the rituals contained in the couple's books were actually written by them, this includes the Oak King/Holy King cycle which they researched from Robert Grave's White Goddess. This was the first use of this cycle in any Wiccan Book of Shadows, and has been adopted into many traditions since. Although they never officially left the Alexandrian tradition, after the book's research was complete they stopped using the term to describe themselves.[5] The couple co-authored four more books on Wicca.

They were joined by Gavin Bone, with whom they entered into a "polyfidelitous relationship".[9] The three of them would co-author two more books; The Healing Craft and The Pagan Path (an investigation into the many varieties of Neopaganism).[10] In 1999 the Farrars received the Aquarian Tabernacle Church charter for Ireland, and were ordained as third level clergy.[7] Farrar died 7 February 2000 after a brief illness.

A biography on Stewart Farrar entitled Writer on a Broomstick was released in February 2008.

Bibliography

The following books, written by Farrar as the sole author are works of fiction, with the exception of What Witches Do.

  • The Snake on 99 (1958) Collins Press, London
  • Zero in the Gate (1961) Walker, NY
  • Death in the Wrong Bed (1963) Walker, NY
  • Delphine, Be a Darling (1963) (under pen name Laurie Stewart) Hurst & Blackett, London
  • What Witches Do: A Modern Coven Revealed (1971) Peter Davies, London ISBN 0963065777
  • The Twelve Maidens (1973) Michael Joseph, London ISBN 1578633907
  • The Serpent of Lilith (1976) (under pen name Margot Villiers) Arrow Books, London
  • The Dance of Blood (1977) Arrow Books, London
  • The Sword of Orley (1977) Michael Joseph, London
  • Omega (1980) Arrow Books, London ISBN 1578633893
  • Forcible Entry (1986) Robert Hale, London
  • Blacklash (1988) Robert Hale, London
  • Witches' Dozen (1996) Godolphin House, New Bern, NC

With Janet Farrar

The following are non-fiction books.

  • A Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches' Handbook (1981 re-issue of The Witches' Way and Eight Sabbats for Witches)Robert Hale, London ISBN 0919345921
  • Eight Sabbats for Witches (1981) Robert Hale, London (Hardcover) ISBN 0-7091-8579-0
  • The Witches' Way Robert Hale, London (1984) ISBN 0-7090-1293-4
  • The Witches' Goddess: The Feminine Principle of Divinity (1987) Robert Hale, London ISBN 0919345913
  • The Life and Times of a Modern Witch (1987) Piatkus Books, London
  • The Witches' God: Lord of the Dance (1989) Robert Hale, London ISBN 0919345476
  • Spells and How They Work (1990) Robert Hale, London ISBN 0-7090-3842-9

With Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

  • Pagan Path: The Wiccan Way of Life (1995) Phoenix Publishing ISBN 0-919345-40-9
  • The Healing Craft: Healing Practices for Witches and Pagans (1999) Phoenix Publications Inc., Custer, WA ISBN 0-7090-6563-9
  • The Complete Dictionary of European Gods and Goddesses (2000) Capall Bann Publishers ISBN 1-86163-122-7
  • Progressive Witchcraft (2004) New Pages Books ISBN 1-56414-719-3

Notes and references

  1. ^ George Knowles. "Stewart Farrar (1916-2000)". Controverscial.Com. http://www.controverscial.com/Stewart%20Farrar.htm. Retrieved December 10 2005.  This claim is repeated in Rabinovitch, Shelley and Lewis, James R. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism. Citadel Press. pp. 96–97. ISBN 0-8065-2407-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Farrar, Janet (1950-) and Stewart (1916-2000)". www.themystica.com. http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/f/farrar_janet_and_stewart.html. Retrieved December 10 2005. 
  3. ^ Knowles, Farrar, gives the caliber of the gun as 30 mm. The well-known anti-aircraft Bofors gun was 40 mm.
  4. ^ a b c George Knowles. "Stewart Farrar (1916-2000)". Controversial.Com. http://www.controverscial.com/Stewart%20Farrar.htm. Retrieved December 10 2005. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Bone, Gavin and Farrar, Janet. "Our Wiccan Origins". Wicca na hErin. http://www.wicca.utvinternet.com/origins.htm. Retrieved December 10 2005. 
  6. ^ a b "Priestess of the Goddess: TWPT talks with Maxine Sanders". The Wiccan/Pagan Times. http://www.twpt.com/sanders.htm. Retrieved December 11 2005. 
  7. ^ a b c d Rabinovitch, Shelley and Lewis, James R. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism. Citadel Press. pp. 96–97. ISBN 0-8065-2407-3. 
  8. ^ a b Farrar, Janet and Stewart (1988). Eight Sabbats for Witches, revised edition. Phoenix Publishing. ISBN 0-919345-26-3. 
  9. ^ Bone, Gavin and Farrar, Janet. "Our Views". Wicca na hErin. http://www.wicca.utvinternet.com/view.htm. Retrieved December 10 2005. 
  10. ^ Farrar, Janet and Stewart, Bone, Gavin (1995). The Pagan Path. Phoenix Publishing. ISBN 0-919345-40-9. 

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