1. Wicca has become one of the fastest growing religions in the US and Europe. What do you see as driving this trend, and are there any misconceptions about what Wicca and Witchcraft may or may not be?
I feel that the growth of Wicca over the last 20 or so years has come from two key directions: Firstly people have become disillusioned with orthodox spirituality and organised religions. As a species we have grown past blindly following the beliefs and authority figures of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations; we question, think about, and then make our own decisions. We seek a spirituality that allows us personal responsibility and the ability to make our own choices and decisions. It is also becoming increasingly important to increasing numbers of people that we live in harmony with the land and the planet, and we no longer believe that we can freely plunder the Earth and get away with it.
The second factor is the Internet. Although not all the information is accurate or reliable, nevertheless it is far easier to find out about beliefs that were previously considered taboo. And never has it been easier to share views and information with others, even though they might be halfway across the world.
2. Growing up in Kent, what called you to your path?
As a very young child I was fortunate to live in close proximity to an elderly lady who, whilst she never used the word “Witch,” was certainly one of the followers of the old ways, and she introduced me to many of the concepts of the Craft. Later as a teenager I found that those early lessons resonated far more strongly than the mainstream beliefs of my family and school. I had always felt a strong connection to the cycles of the seasons and the moon, and knew that magic was real. This was in the days when Alex Sanders was frequently in the more salacious press and this encouraged me to look further. After that it was a short step from that to seeking and discovering Witchcraft. However, it was many years before I actually found and joined a Coven.
3. How did you go about letting people know you were a witch? Do you have advice for others making their faith known, or “coming out of the broom closet,” as it were?
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties, when I started working for a Pagan music company, that I felt able to come out of the broom closet. Not only were my employers not going to discriminate against me, I was encouraged to become active in the promotion and defence of paganism. Also, by that time both my parents had died, so I knew I wasn’t going to upset or embarrass them. I always counsel people to think long and hard before ‘coming out,’ because not only can it affect their own lives and careers but it can have adverse effects on their near and dear.
4. As a pagan parent, have you encountered any criticism from those outside the pagan community?
Parenting as both a pagan and a mature mother (the medical profession in the UK term it ‘elderly’!) has been, and is, more than a little interesting. In the pre-school years it was relatively simple, I only had to juggle work, being a Pagan Federation media representative, writing, and caring for my son. We did have some interesting experiences with the media, once being asked by and enthusiastic photographer to “hold the baby closer to the flames”! But once he started school the fun really started; his first school had a very strong Christian bias and I had more than one animated discussion with the head teacher. His current primary school is far more enlightened. They’ve had one of my books in to show the children that writers are normal people and even a mummy can be an author, and they were happy for me to serve a term of office as a school governor. Regrettably not all the parents are equally enlightened and more than one of his classmates is not allowed to socialise with him outside of school due to my ‘notoriety.’ Interestingly, some of the more vocal criticism has come from within the pagan community. Tali has been accompanying me to conferences and festivals since he was 3 weeks old, and in the beginning this gave rise to quite a few negative comments. However, I like to think that my persistence has worked to increase the acceptance of children at pagan events.
5. Your Real Witches’ Handbook has introduced thousands to the Craft. What resources did you call upon as you started your own journey?
When I first started to look for information on the Craft, books were thin and far between, and some were dubious to say the least. However, I persisted, and I like to think that the Old Gods had a hand in guiding me. I was lucky enough to meet and learn from those who had been practising the Craft before me. It was actually the dearth of straightforward books in my youth that led me to start writing.
6. One of your books, The Real Witches’ Craft, includes several exercises (or “practical works”) in every chapter. What is the importance of practicing your craft?
I don’t think you can become a Witch or Wiccan without actually practising the Craft; no amount of reading can ever be a good substitute for the practise and experience, but even today there are many who can’t, or don’t wish to, join a Coven. So in The Real Witches’ Craft I tried to make up for the lack of practical experience with some exercises that can be done by the solitary witch.
7. You are the High Priestess of the Hearth of Hecate. As a High Priestess, what is the best advice you can give someone who wants to learn how to be a witch?
Read, listen, and question. Read, both books and from the Internet, and question what you read. Go to conferences, gatherings, and meetings, meet people, ask questions and then consider what you hear. If you can find someone who you can trust and respect to guide you then that’s excellent, but whether that happens sooner, later, or even never, always trust to your own instincts.
8. Why are your books called “The Real Witch’s ...”?
This isn’t, as has been suggested, because I feel that the Witchcraft in my books is any better or more ‘real’ than anyone else’s. Rather, this is because when I started there seemed to be an unspoken assumption that everyone would have access to a private outdoor working space and/or could create a 9 ft circle in their home. That it was essential to join a coven with the ‘right’ number of members, equally female and male, and an even distribution of sun signs. That there was a long list of required equipment; tools, robes etc. And that to perform spells and magic you needed cupboards full of strange, possibly expensive, and frequently unobtainable ingredients. The “Real Witches’” title came about because I wanted to write about the Craft for ordinary people; those with families, jobs, mortgages, and bills. People who have to put their children to bed (and keep them there!) during rituals held in a family room, or whose partner / parents might not want to join in, or be surrounded by clouds of incense. In other words; ordinary every-day people, like us. “The Ordinary Every-day Witches’ Handbook” just doesn’t have the same sound to it!
9. You have won several “Best non-fiction Witchcraft Author” awards, the “Lifetime contribution to Witchcraft” award, and have been named the “Face of modern Witchcraft” in the UK. How do these awards make you feel?
It’s wonderful to feel that people have enjoyed my books and have found them useful, and it’s very special to have that acknowledged in such a public way. The “Lifetime” award was completely unexpected; all the previous winners were people who are well known Elders of the Craft, and I was surprised and delighted to find myself amongst such illustrious company (although I have wondered how I’m ever going to top that!).
I must admit it was something of a shock to go to the conference centre and find my picture on posters all over the place as the “Face of Modern Witchcraft;” in fact I’m not sure I’ve really got over it. I’ve never thought of myself as being different from any other Witch or Wiccan. We all have our abilities and talents, I just happen to enjoy writing about the Craft as well as practising it.
Trade Paperback | $21.95 US, $21.95 CAN | 9780738713748 | May 2008
Kate West, renowned author and leading authority on Witchcraft, shares her expertise in The Real Witches' Craft. A bestseller in the United Kingdom, this trusted guide to magic is for modern Witches... Read more