A few years ago, I took part in the opening day of a relocating bookstore. As part of the day, several people were giving brief talks. Speaking just before me was Ed Fitch, and when he was finished, after some nice applause, people started talking amongst themselves. Now, before I continue, do you know Ed Fitch? I mean, do you know more about him than that he's published a couple of books? If not, read on.
By the time I came up to give my talk, I had completely changed what I intended to say. Instead, I found myself talking about the masters among us. This column is based on what I said that day.
There's hardly a day that goes by when I don't hear from someone who says, "I wish I'd had a chance to talk with (someone)," where the someone is historically famous. It might be Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, MacGregor Mathers, Alex Sanders, Gerald Gardner, A.E. Waite, Evangeline Adams, Dion Fortune, Scott Cunningham, or one of many others. To these people I say, "Pay attention to the masters among us!"
Let's start with Ed Fitch. Although many people are known for helping trigger the modern interest in Witchcraft and Paganism, nobody is more important than Ed. In the earliest days of the movement, Ed was responsible for manuscripts that trained people in the Pagan way. Those papers trained people, who trained others, who have become the leaders of today's movement. In the days before the Internet, he published a newsletter (that eventually became a magazine) called The Crystal Well. Thousands of people have practiced or modified those rituals and taught them to others. You can get the best of the writings from that journal in Magical Rites from the Crystal Well. It's filled with practical information and rites you can use, but also serves well as living history.
And when it comes to importance in the development of the Craft, another living master is Raymond Buckland. He trained with Gerald Gardner and introduced Gardnerian Wicca to the US. If you want to know the history of modern Wicca, Raymond is the person you should go to. His living history of the Craft is revealed in his book Witchcraft from the Inside. And when it comes to a non-sectarian training manual for learning to be a Witch, nothing is better than Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft.
When it comes to the Tarot, masters such as Eden Gray, A.E. Waite, and Paul Foster Case are no longer with us. But we are lucky to have two people with us today who are widely acknowledged as masters of the Tarot and extend our knowledge of the cards. One is Rachel Pollack, author of such books as The Seeker, The Forest of Souls, The Kabbalah Tree, and Rachel Pollack's Tarot Wisdom. The other is Mary K. Greer, who wrote The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals and Understanding the Tarot Court.
When it comes to The Golden Dawn, two modern masters are Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. They were friends of Israel Regardie, and their notes and additions to Regardie's classic books, The Tree of Life and The Middle Pillar, are important contributions to that system. The Essential Golden Dawn and Self-Initiation Into the Golden Dawn Tradition have helped develop untold thousands of magicians.
Noel Tyl is one of the foremost astrologers in the world today. His books are not only brilliant explanations of astrological subjects, but books such as Solar Arcs, Synthesis & Counseling in Astrology, and The Creative Astrologer have expanded on previous astrological theory.
This is not meant to slight any other authors or teachers. The people I named above are simply a few of the many I would contend are masters in their respective areas of expertise. Perhaps, as you read this, you are thinking of other people who are masters. In fact, in another month or year, perhaps new masters will arrive, to explain things in better ways and expand upon our current levels of information.
No, you can't talk with Crowley, Cunningham, Regardie, Adams, or any of a wide range of masters of the past. But you can read the books of the many masters living today. Many teach classes and workshops you can attend. You can also write to any Llewellyn author by sending your letters in care of Llewellyn. Although we can't guarantee that they'll respond, be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply.
Years from now, you may be wishing you could have talked with one of the masters who is alive right now. Don't pass on your opportunities.