Welcome to this wonderful interview with Shani Oates. I became aware of her work only recently with my discovery of her book The Search for Odin published by Anathema Publishing. Before we start the interview here is a brief introduction of Shani Oates and her work.
Shani Oates is a well-known figure in the world of the occult and mysticism. She is a practitioner of Traditional Craft and has dedicated her life to researching, lecturing, and writing about the Craft, Magic, and Ancestral Tradition. Her work on the Robert Cochrane Tradition and the cultural Folk-lore and Folk-magicks of the UK and its Northern Heritage is highly regarded. In addition to her scholarly pursuits, Shani Oates is also a Spae-wife and Matriarch of The People of Goda, The Clan of Tubal Cain.
Shani Oates has authored several books that delve into the myths, gods, and archetypes that inform the Cults and Crafts of Witchcraft and Folk-Traditions, these are listed at the end of the interview alongside links where you can follow her work.
I am deeply appreciative of the time and effort Shani Oates has taken to provide us with such thorough and insightful responses to our questions.
Table of Contents
PAA: Welcome to Perseus. It is lovely to have you here.
SO: Many thanks for supporting my work, I appreciate your interest in it.
PAA: We have already introduced your work, but would you like to give a brief personal introduction.
SO: Of course, no problem. Although I am an author and researcher of the anthropology and archeology of belief – focusing especially upon Northern Traditions, which incorporate folklore, folk-magics and mysticism – my primary duty is that of Maid and Matriarch to the Clan of Tubal Cain. Practicing what may loosely categorized as Traditional Craft, we are the ‘People of Goda’, so named by Robert Cochrane in the
PAA: How did you come to be involved in the Robert Cochrane Tradition and what are some of the core beliefs and practices of this form of witchcraft?
SO: Back in the mid-1990s, I reached out and began corresponding with several people involved from within the active sphere of Traditional Craft. After being a sole practitioner for almost all my life, I had a strong curiosity about what others were doing and a desire to learn more about the beliefs and paths others’ followed. I was indeed blessed by the response of one man in particular, Evan John Jones, who
changed by life forever. After Robert Cochrane’s tragic death at Midsummer in 1966, John (EJJ), became Magister of the Clan (CTC), a position he stoically held until my own partner, Robin-the-Dart was appointed as his full successor in 2003 when John passed into the ancestral realms. Robin had served as John’s Tanist since 1998, a complicated office that shadows the duties and burdens of leadership; it is one where the Magister and his Tanist engage the roles of the Young and Old Horn(ed) King within the Clan’s Mythos. I explain this fully in ‘Crafting the Art of Tradition’ and in all four books of the ‘Star Crossed Serpent’ series, written specifically to share the outline of our tradition, and to provide explanations of Robert Cochrane’s philosophies and practices that led to the development and evolution of the People of Goda as a Clan.
May I please add here, that these works are crucial reading for anyone interested in our Tradition, and that they alone offer valid, authentic insights to CTC. They were written to directly counter the misdirection, speculation, misunderstanding and misrepresentation (of which there is an abundance) composed by those who stand outside the Clan, and are therefore well beyond the remit of its mysteries. Sadly, too
few actually approach us for correct information and too many simply copy and repeat whatever they discover in internet searches. The sheer plethora of misinformation ultimately led to the publication of ‘Tubal’s Mill,’ which is a hard-hitting, no hole’s barred expose of the controversies created by a handful of people who have sought to usurp and malign CTC over the past 60 years. Unlike my other publications which seek to guide and inform through sharing the tenets of our belief, mythos and practice, ‘Tubal’s Mill’ tackles instead the nonsenses constructed by others whose brutal, personal agendas became the widely believed and all too popular version of The Robert Cochrane Tradition.
Collectively, therefore, my works present a full, rounded perspective of who we are and what we are about. This has been my life’s work since John recognised in me a ‘Virtue of Inheritance.’ Acting on that, John instigated me as Maid (Seer) and Matriarch of the Clan in 1998, a position formerly borne by Robert Cochrane’s own partner, a lady referred to as ‘Jane.’ John and I had been corresponding for almost four years, when he invited me to visit his home in Brighton. We had an instant rapport and a recognition that was timeless. From that moment, everything changed. John introduced me to others who had known and worked with Robert Cochrane and the Clan, including Doreen Valiente, who was an amazing lady. I will always treasure the time I spent with her. These, and others were able to provide the rich background and
foundation of the Clan’s history, mythos, praxis and purpose, which according to Robert Cochrane, was to realign people with their ancestral roots and cultural customs through the Mysteries, mysteries embedded in the mysticisms of old.
PAA: How do you distinguish Cochrane’s Craft from other forms of modern witchcraft, such as Wicca or Paganism?
SO: Because this question overlaps considerably with the previous question, I feel I may better address it here. First of all, I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify this important distinction. As a canny wordsmith, Robert Cochrane was quite fond of kennings and puns, taking great delight in setting traps for others, a ploy that quickly became termed ‘grey magic.’ With tongue firmly in cheek, Cochrane bore the title of ‘witch,’ a title he keenly asserted, was exactly that – one ascribed by others. Firmly against all labels, ‘it was never a name we called ourselves,’ he said, often, and in different ways. Robert Cochrane firmly believed that: “Genuine Witchcraft is not Paganism, though it retains the memory of ancient faiths,” and that; “it is the last real Mystery Cult alive.” By that, he meant our singular approach to the mysticisms of
former centuries was utterly unique and not to be compared with the immensely popular movements of Wica and Paganism promulgated in the 60s. He taught that Witchcraft and Paganism were not synonymous, each possessing both complementary and more often, contradictory elements, especially regarding fundamental issues such as tenets of Faith, Mythos and Praxis.
Throughout his amazing writings, Cochrane explains this controversial notion, demonstrating how we are not modern, not witches, not wiccan and not Pagan. The differences between these modalities are already vast and often complex, so to ask what the differences are between ourselves and any one of these is not readily or easily answered. That said, the subject is explored in-depth throughout my works, using
Cochrane’s own works as core references. Basically, he expressed our tradition as one that continues the intrinsic beliefs of the people of our Northern climes, in contradistinction to the eastern and Mediterranean based practices central to Wica and neo-Paganism. Cochrane perceived modern Paganism to be an ‘alternative science’ as opposed to the ‘occult science’ of the true Craft.
CTC also has a fully developed historical Cosmology, that focusses on the holistic evolution of the individual through a relationship with all things of the ‘Otherworld.’ Those being the spirits of ancestors, the land and of the hearth. These are titular and tutelary. They are held in awe and reverence, but we do not worship them, nor do we perceive them as pairs of Gods and Goddesses per se. Within the practices of Paganism and Wicca, there frequently exist many pantheons, adherents of whom are generally followers of only one of them, but who more commonly practice an eclectic syncretism, believing in and worshipping the appropriate god/dess forms of choice. This differs markedly from the more traditional aspect of Clan based Craft, where the concept of a Tutelary deity (assigned by mandate) remains constant. This manifests, simply as a figure-head and filter for the ‘Old Ones,’ the deified concepts of long distant ancestors. Beyond them, the infinite and unknowable simply is.
Cochrane opined that the keys to understanding Truth lay with the guardians of a Tradition, the discarnate ancestors and deific forms who benefit the next generation of spiritual heirs. Because we seek constant interaction with them in the pursuit of gnosis, we cast no circles, create no barriers of defense, proffer no threat through wielding weapons at spirits we wish to engage, and call upon no names associated
with peoples whose own cultural foundations have no historical precedent in these lands. Remember, our ancestors would cry “I worship the ‘gods’ that my father’s father worshipped,” asserting that each Clan’s ‘gods’ are personal to them only. They may in some cases remain nameless, but to each, they are known intimately. Such vital links to a Clan’s ancestors are continuously stressed; ‘heritage’ and ‘bloodlines’ are of
paramount importance. Preserved within this lineage is access to the ‘group soul’ – the egregore. There is no greater terror or dread than that of being outcast from the protective mentoring of this guiding entity. We therefore practice folk magics much as our forefathers have done, as nominal Christians who continue to uphold the regional and inherited customs that have unfolded over many centuries. In that sense, we are not practicing Christians, but neither do we reject it as many Wican’s, Wiccan’s and Pagans do. We hold dearly to the gnostic principles of early Christianity, particularly as it was absorbed and developed by our heathen ancestors through a cultural filter unique to the Northern lands.
The customs, celebrations and traditions of these lands have developed consequently through this fusion of Church and spirits of the hearth and heath, so we cannot separate 1500 years of tradition and belief. To even attempt to do this as contemporary Wicans, Wiccans and Pagans have done, is to literally ‘throw the baby out with the bath water.’ There are centuries of precious lore we should be striving to properly appreciate and understand. That is the occulted purpose that drove Cochrane to oppose Wica in the 1960s. He saw it as an abandonment of centuries of tradition, and a rejection of the heritage of ancestry. Referring to that heritage as the ‘Faith,’ he believed that people should instead be seeking those time-honoured processes in preference to invented illusion and fantasy. Witnessing first-hand the make-believe
indulgences, of both a psychological and sexual nature, his frustrations led him to several altercations with his peers, winning him a poor reputation that has proved impossible to shake, 60 years on.
The phrase oft quoted by Cochrane “the quick and the dead,” refers to yet another fundamental difference between our beliefs and that of the Pagan which confines the latter to the shady realms of the ‘dead,’ whereas the former reposes with the ‘quick’, retaining a vital quality of pure essential virtue that is lineage specific for progression in death, the next life and the life hereafter. This belief is firmly rooted in the Nordic traditions. Cochrane believed that after death, Pagans repair to the Paradisial lands referred to often as the Summerlands or ‘Tir-Na Gog.’ Though some believe these may only be reached after many elevating incarnations; conversely, others believe it to be the place Pagans go to await re-incarnation. Either way, this is in no way comparable to the Clan’s belief that, upon death of the body, we aspire to remain very much alive in spirit, akin to the ‘quick.’ Thus we remain a force of being. We cross the river to the Castle of the Pale-Faced Goddess that spins between the worlds, peopled and created by distant ancestors and Clan members, where we shall reside until we are reborn back into the Clan. Unlike many Wiccans and Pagans, who often link rebirth to karma – the laws of cause and effect, rendering their next life uncertain and obscure – the Clan believe that we must pay in this life for our actions: effect follows cause swiftly and justly, so is not even remotely connected to the ridiculous supposition of a ‘three-fold return. There is even a Clan law to enforce this rule.
We dedicate our lives to this link with the dead, the Castle and to the pursuit of gnosis, forging and strengthening the power, energy and wisdom imparted to them by their ancestors. We travel the well-worn path, whose guides are those of myth and legend, the group and family being the focus of importance. Modern Wiccans and Pagans often reject these ancestral links believing them to be restrictive barriers, choosing instead to focus on the self, often following their own intuition and instruction; reliance upon this view of self is stressed in favour of the group, guiding them upon the path and their own role within the universe. The quest liberates them from the cycle of re-birth, ultimately achieving enlightenment as a solitary engagement.
PAA: You mention (in a previous interview) meeting with what you called your HGA (Higher Guardian Angel) in puberty and that this being mapped out with certainty what was to come. The HGA is mentioned in many traditions, I know this is very personal but would you say these beings have been a constant companion or was it more a one off to put you on the path?
SO: From personal experience, such spirits remain throughout life, but may be added to by others, of varying nature. Once we are made aware of them, through initial and impactful incidents, they form an inseparable element within the course of our evolutionary path, providing unwavering guidance and inspiration.
PAA: What are some of the rituals and tools that you use in your practice?
SO: Robert Cochrane recognised three basic ritual formats fundamental to those of the ‘True Faith’; named ‘The Three Rites’, they incorporate the following:
1. Divination – retrieval of information from the Akasha;
2. Spell-casting and other acts of Magic – invocation of heavenly force applied
through will and intent;
3. Communion – evocation of mystical energy, experienced and shared by the
Cochrane’s correspondences contain the basic outlines of the Three Rites’ (Rings) and the thirteen ritual tools of our Craft (see below). The ‘ring’ itself is best aspected as the ‘threshing floor’, where such rites were known and recorded up to 1873. During Harvest time, a ‘bride’ performed anointings amidst family members who danced and paid homage to a table and a throne made from the planks drawn from the threshing fields. A significant magical precedent for this is known in biblical times when David purchased
threshing fields upon which to erect a sacred altar in Jerusalem, in thanks for its continued abundance during plagues and pestilence which had decimated surrounding areas. The site is believed by many to have been Mount Moriah.
In addition to the traditional nine knots of the ‘witches ladder’ (four solar rites, four lunar rites, plus one other –Twelfth Night), we treasure a set of four rites that collectively facilitate the unfolding pathway of the mystic as a seasonal quaternary. In this, we follow closely the format set down by Robert Cochrane, who as an accomplished poet and mystic, devised this particular set of rites in which traditional
craft elements were syncretized within a greater body of mystic corpus. Conducted for the most part in silence and stillness, consecutive periods of action and in-action, poise and motion, the rituals separate and refine the focus of the aspirant undertaking them to the zero-still point where ‘man transcends Time to become One with the divine.’ Known in the outer as the ‘Rose Beyond the Grave’, ‘The Cave of the Cauldron’, ‘The Stone Stile’ and ‘The Castle of the Four Winds’, this crucial tetrad can be further
demonstrated to reflect the four worlds of the Qabalah, moving from Assiah to Atziluth.
Beginning with the ‘Stone Stile’, the aspirant delineates their physical boundaries, defining the ritual landscape, preparing the bridge and consecrating all tools required for the work. Next, they will engage the ‘Castle of the Four Winds’, the repository of all power and knowledge for those tools of the mind needed to forge the journey ahead. After this, the nebulous and fluid qualities of the Fates are sought in ‘The Cave of the Cauldron’ for insights and confirmations of possible outcomes and pathways to bring
the work to fruition. Finally, in the ‘Rose Beyond the Grave’, the aspirant is finally prepared to conjoin the knowledge generated by the previous three workings in a highly experiential rite wherein one realises the ultimate Truth of all things. More than anything Cochrane asserted that the Craft preserved no great secrets, that everything could be won for those brave and true enough to traverse the many realms of
existence. Yet he also recognised in the Mysteries a premise that can never be taught – that only full experiential and initiatory immersion can induce their apprehension.
On a mythological level the thirteen tools can be said to relate directly to the Thirteen Treasures of Britain for which Arthur traversed the Hollow Hills of the Underworld – ‘Caer Annwyn’. Each tool/weapon/treasure plays a significant role in the rings empowered by them.
1. Skull- pharmacopoeia of dew-filled manna; Bran, oracular alder god; Qayin, god of smith-craft and agriculture, Baal, fertility god of fire, prophecy, craft, and death, of magic, alchemy: “all things of this world
belong to him, the star-crossed serpent.”
2. Horned crown – animal totem, a symbol of the anointed, chosen or blessed, emblem of supreme right to assume divine authority, tool of office, vinculum of bestial morphology.
3. Mirror – mirrored doorway into the astral realms, and macro-cosmic reflector of virtue. Gateway of ingress and egress.
4. Pentacle/whetstone – elemental symbol of protection and kingship. Grail ‘lapsit exhillis’ (Earth)
5. Horn/cup – Cornucopia of abundance, female (receptive) genitalia. (Water). Feminine Mysteries of Creation and Destruction.
6. Knife/sickle – experience, knowledge, victory, conflict, courage, choice, sacrifice, physical love, intuition, inspiration, supreme tool of balance, without which it cannot be used. Small knives may be substituted for three nails in acts of cursing. Its wielder holds the powers of life or death, justice or mercy, therefore it is temperance. (Fire) Masculine Mysteries incorporating the Order of the Sun and the Grail Mysteries.
7. Staff/Stang – conveying more than authority, it is ancient power, invested by might. It represents the supreme ‘right’ in continuity and perpetuity from inception of absolute awareness of status. (Air) Stang: Godhead, unity, Old and Young Horn(ed) King. Manifestation, absolute power. Supreme altar. Love. Truth and Beauty. Representing the hermaphrodite, it embodies male and female virtue, wisdom and the third Mystery. The term ‘masking’ relates to the symbols placed upon the stang relative to the rite performed in the form of tools and garlands, and to the actual totem animal mask or skull. These may be mirrored upon the Magister. In its most basic form, the ‘mask’ represents the four worlds of the Qabalah, as aforementioned.
8. Cloak – beyond humility, concealment and protection, this encompasses the ‘true’ self – the shadow, the absolute self, the ego we are required to fully integrate as the magical ‘self’, the mind evolves in accord with True Will. ie – Divine Will.
9. Rods/wands/spear – Caithir rod: ancestral authority etymologically linked to seat/throne, it also means ‘big’ and is commonly used as a blasting or cursing weapon, also for ‘charming’. Generally carved from antler, bone or crystal, but occasionally wood, in which case alder is preferred. Pointed at one end, it is suggestive of the spear. Keppen rod: a measuring tool (synonymous with a ‘ruler’, ergo a symbol of authority/kingship/lineage), it also symbolises spirit, illumination and eternity, seen by many as the
equivalent to the Egyptian ankh. This is often forked at one end, sharpened and indicates a weapon of sacrifice similar to the hand-staff carried by the Magister. Spear: pierces the cauldron with its metal (iron) tipped point (Khronos) as an act of love in which the principle of life draws down the moon into the flux of the Mother (Hekate) to generate the ‘Aqua Vitae’ – the red blood of life – spirit brought to manifestation.
10. Besom – paradoxically a male phallic tool as symbol of civilization and domestication, therefore despised by Italian witches (who ‘rode goats or wolves to the Sabbaths’). Used in stamping dances, it is ‘worn’ over the shoulders (like a weapon). Female tool as instrument by which the ‘family’ turn without motion between three elements (earth, air and water – hazel, ash and willow). The fourth is fire – the flying ointment applied to its shaft. Thus like the riding pole it is the mount of flight, the instrument of ascent
and pathway to the mysteries. The riding pole in another sense is the night-mare of hypnogogic dreamscapes.
11. Cauldron – abyss, void, flux, wisdom, generation, creation. Remember the true meaning of the cauldron “…bring forth the star son, and you have Dionysus, the Horn Child and Jesus Christ in one…” (son of the Father, prophet and sacrificial king.)
12. Cords/girdles/garters – symbol of sacrifice and subjugation, birth, death, a witches’ ladder or rosary, a spellbinder. In folk magic it is used for spell craft. It is our own personal strand of fate, ours to hold and weave, guided by will into the great web, the ultimate matrix and key to our destiny. Synonymous with the scourge it also represents submission, stimulation, surrender, discipline, fealty, ascent and descent. As substitutes of the Tephillin and phylacteries (Jewish bindings embodying the power of prayer and the word for use in the Merkavah Mysteries) they generate the virtue of sacred charms and chants, protecting and purifying.
13. Arrows – Two arrows, one black, one white (the archaic colours of Fate) form a (gyfu) cross upon the Stang suggestive of the ‘lunar cross’ of Bride, although conversely, it also represents the holy cross of the Gnostics and Mithraic initiates. They also suggest the twin pillars of Joachim and Boaz. Within Tubal Cain, this cross essentially represents the arrows of Neith, the primal Mother, who protects, creates and destroys us. As a Universal and primal deity, Neith has other ‘weapons’- a sceptre (symbol of rule and power) and the ankh (symbol of life). Also known as the ‘Cow of Heaven,’ this sky-goddess is cognate with Nut giving birth to the sun daily and creates both primeval time and cyclical time.’ Formed from two v’s, one upward and one downward, they are in fact the chalice/womb and the blade/phallus, depicting the conjoined virtues of both to manifest Charis, or Grace. Therefore, solar, lunar and stellar fluxes combine in this simple
PAA: How do you pursue wisdom as the highest goal of witchcraft?
SO: A curious question, requiring a very specific answer. Wisdom is not necessarily the goal of witchcraft, and many might argue it is not, and that knowledge, is a preferable virtue. In my own Craft, the pursuit of wisdom is certainly considered to be critical in the search for Truth. Truth is our highest goal. Its discovery reveals all things. The pathway to it is that of the mystic (though not necessarily as an ascetic), and is achieved only by application of oneself as the raw material of transformation, through humility, and through absolute dedication to that goal, to the exception of everything else. Cochrane understood the cyclic nature of wisdom asserting how its discovery “creates the alchemy that brings forth an answer.”
I suppose, ‘The Work’ itself – comprising of ritual and private contemplation – is the procedure to effect the goal you refer to. After all, alchemy is a divine science, facilitating our gift of transmutation from matter into spirit or the body of light and bliss – Premadaha. Ceremonial invocations are simply meditational aids, mere commands to the supra-conscious, as are the chants, calls and use of sigils. Real
transformation as an induction towards illumination, is engendered by the action of subjugation, of total surrender to the forces invoked. “Prayer is the ladder that binds the body to the earth whilst the soul ascends into the dizzying heights of the heavens.” This ‘grail quest’ correlates with the fulfilment of gnosis under the ‘Order of the Sun’, the life’s work of a true mystic.
PAA: How do you interpret Cochrane’s “old witch law” and apply it to your life?
SO: In a word: Ethics.
The Law [Craft]
- Do not what you desire
- Do what is necessary.
- Take all you are given
- Give all of yourself.
- “What I have I hold!”
- When all else is lost, and not until then,
- Prepare to die with dignity.
Robin-the-Dart composed a wonderful exploration of the credo Robert Cochrane lived
and died by:
- Desire is of course about gratification. It is about the sensuous delights of life itself. It is completely subjective. It alludes to illusion.
- Necessity is the harsh, biting reality, the unrelenting tide of ‘fate.’ This wave of assault forces the hand to act in accord with the will aligned to the external demands of duty, of sacrifice, of non-subjective causes.
- Holding all that is given concerns the ability to receive. Giving is easy enough. How many of us can take? In taking we acknowledge the bond twixt giver and receiver and recognise the value of sharing gifts, though not ones of material worth. They are of great value and must be nurtured in faith, preserved by discretion and hallowed in awe.
- Giving of the self in return is the surrender of will, rightly asserted as not being virtue. The will is an impediment to true sight and is given up. Removal of this obstacle is the giving of the ‘all’ – the self as a blank canvas for the virtue, as yet untapped within, to be stimulated by the teacher without.
- This mentor keeps all for himself, that is to say, his gnosis is his own, it is of no use to the next man who cannot walk in his shoes. It is held by him as his guide and key to the next level of his/her own evolution. The mentor instills many things within his student, but never his own argosy. Wryd is an individual tone.
- When one loses sight of the truth, loses the way to it or abandons it, then this person is ‘lost’, literally and figuratively. Without Truth, there is no hope, no understanding and no purpose in this life given to discover the profound secrets of these things.
- This brings us to the reason for death. Without purpose, ‘The Faith’ is dead. Without vigour in life, virtue wanes. So life loses its hold and we slip into stasis, the cold grip of death. It beckons us towards another life, another role through which to fulfill the ideals we lost in this one. And we then choose when and how such a death is acquired. The appointment is arranged by the context and according to the dictates of circumstance. No-one else decides this point in time, but ourselves.
PAA: How do you experience and express your connection to the Forbidden Arts and the Luciferian current?
SO: I experience my connection to all things ‘Other,’ through the pursuit of gnosis. Gnosis is the prime motivator of true Luciferian tradition. Therefore, I embrace that current through immersion in both heterodoxy and orthodoxy. No venture is rejected in that pursuit; a closed mind closes doors and stifles inspiration. All that I experience, I express through the fruits of my labour, shared in my works that record
and reflect those gleanings. If the light is smothered in darkness, who can see it? No, it must blaze forth “for shadows to flee away.” After all, the Luciferian current seeks Truth by exposing the Lie.
PAA: How do you balance your roles as a researcher, lecturer, historian, and writer of the Craft, Magic, Ancestral Tradition, and Folk-lore and Folk-magicks of the UK and its Northern Heritage?
SO: There is no distinction between these duties; collectively, they are the components of a ‘lived tradition.’ Each part feeds another, enhances it and propels it forwards, evolving mind, body and spirit. When inspired, I write; when compelled, I act. When asked, I lecture; sharing in those cumulative wisdoms of UPG and of Academic research. As Cochrane said, “All ritual is Prayer.”
PAA: How do you integrate your studies of Anthropology, Tantra, Philosophy, and the arcane ‘Other’ into your personal and professional work?
SO: As mentioned above, they form an inseparable and indispensable role in the discovery and comprehension of ‘Tradition.’ The process of anamnesis (reremembering) is triggered by experience. This requires ritual work based primarily in the reality of genuine history and in conversant custom. Knowledge only becomes wisdom when aligned with experience. A fully lived tradition is not possible where such things are separated, compartmentalized, and approached through whim or schedule.
PAA: What inspired you to write about Óðinn and his quest for the runes and the mead of poetry?
SO: Ahh, this was in fact a promise I made to John decades ago, when through his instruction I was re-introduced to this mythic figure within the contexts of a Northern Tradition. John had assured me, that over time, his role and purpose in our tradition would become clear, and that the Eddas and Sagas held profound clues to our heritage as a people. Part of my promise to John, was to share that knowledge.
During my own lengthy research, I discovered so much vital information lost in the mire of misunderstanding or bias, which made me ever more determined to pare away such obscurities and ambiguities, to uncover the truth and present it baldly, sans agenda or bias. The reality that remains is quite startling in its relevance to our modern society, and we have much to learn from it. From the romantic beauty of its mythic enchantment, to its gravid expression of a warrior culture, the true Northern
Tradition is a treasure beyond measure.
PAA: Your recent book was what drew my attention to get in contact. Óðinn as you say in your presentation for Watkins is a mass of contradictions, a highly interesting character in a fascinating time.
SO: Yes he is, but more than that, his popular portrayal is so far removed from his actual persona, it became an imperative to reveal how cumulative layers of misinformation have systematically deprived us of a real history and context for this fascinating personage. So much labelled as Óðinic, has in fact, nothing to do with him, and that loses entirely their actual contribution to understanding who our ancestors revered, for what purpose, and in what capacity. I am speaking here primarily of the Elder Gods, and of the alleged temple structures supposedly dedicated to them.
PAA: Sovereignty and the Divine Feminine. This was a very interesting part of your presentation, could you perhaps explain these terms to readers and their implications in the past and in the present?
SO: Within our approach to the Divine Feminine, the concepts of Suzerainty we hold to within the Clan of Tubal Cain are quite different from Sovereignty. Sovereignty refers to a land based rule and/or authority in which people may live, occupy or exist upon freely without obligation to or from its sovereign. Tribal societies composed of nomadic or migrating peoples, no matter where they are, remain a collective people, unbound to the Sovereign whose country they inhabit. Because Suzerainty is based in
feudalism along with the attendant principles of vassalage through liege lords and ladies who hold sway over the people, all parties are duty bound in direct and mutually obligatory Troth. This sacrosanct premise distinguishes itself from that of sovereignty. Simply put – the Monarch, having dominion based on territory, ruled the land, but the lords and ladies had common dominion of the people through their oath, no matter where those people resided. As the Clan of Tubal Cain are and remain a ‘people’ aligned to a perceived tutelary deity (real or mythical) we are subject to the principle of Suzerainty. Where-ever we are, the Suzerain is paramount, independently and irrespective of any monarch. Allegiance is based in people, not land. We remain aligned to the histories of its peoples. A ‘people’ subsumes its gods through evolution and progress, but a geocentric monarchy may not. Any faith rooted in the land is tied to that of its ruling monarch (think of Old Hal), in this way the faith itself is at the mercy of war or conquest. The ‘nomad’ on the other hand retains the faith of his ancestors – I follow the gods of my ‘father’s father’ etc. Virtue is of the line, then, not land, not even mythically.
In the archaic world, all kings and all leaders were understood as having divine descent; only when overall kingship established supreme ruler-ship of collective territories did the premise of a singular ‘divine’ Monarchy supported by a land based religious body. This instigated essential dogma to maintain control. This is why ‘gnostics’ have a history of being travelling mendicants – bound by no land or state. When they failed to observe this, they became victim to virtual genocide. With regard to more mythical cycles, the welfare of a people was subject to that of its Lord/Duc, NOT necessarily its monarch.
This welfare, through the political agendas of the later Middle Ages (after the War of the Roses witnessed the decline of feudalism in fact) became retrospectively reinterpreted to support the concepts of an overall divine kingship, so that it would be beyond question or reproach by peers of the realm, who ironically thereafter became subject ‘peers’ bound by oath to serve and support the realm (land and sovereignty) of its Monarch. In this nifty act, the former responsibilities of the lord became the kings
and the people became subject to the mercy and welfare of the monarch. This is allegedly one of the charges made against those accused in the witch trials of this period – the failure to acknowledge a sovereign, making it a treasonable offence. The Craft thus became in one sense anarchic in its insistence to adhere to its earlier feudalisms.
Because the Divine Feminine became disguised in the land, Monarchs were said to have ‘married’ the land or the sea for many thousands of years, but this again became the locus of land grabs by power mongers who in taking the queen, owned the land she represented. Helen of Sparta was one such queen. Her story is rarely given truthfully as a principle where Menelaus had to regain her to prevent Paris from claiming Sparta! Arthur too had the same problem with Gweneffyr.
Legends and sagas reveal the history of conquest; myth reveals the lament of its spirituality lost in those struggles. These evolve and change through the eras and peoples who relate them. Nevertheless, these remain the tales that formulate the racial and political agendas of coalescing cultural identities. Locked within such tales are kernels of Truth that become lost to the greater narrative. In the Fisher King article I challenge accepted opinion that has determined the king requires the return of the ‘feminine’ grail/power/virtue to become healed and fit again to rule and heal his land. This is of course only partially true (as above). In fact, the grail is only feminine in respect of its complementary quality it is genitivally associated with – ie: Wisdom.
The king has lost his way, his faith and as the priest/king his people are bereft – the barren landscape in which they starve is a graphic only, a narrative device, a literary motif of the mystical writers. His faith/wisdom (Pistis-Sophia) needs restoration and re-union within the Hieros Gamos to restore his Virtue. The Grail has nothing to do with the land or womanhood in the absolute sense. This association was made by linking Pistis Sophia with Mary in the Marionanism of that period in order to again promote the role of the Church in the blessed right and ability of the Monarch to rule.
Again, the idea of male gods and heroes sacrificed to themselves is a later Christian gloss on the early myths of immolation and self-mutilation that formed the journey of many ancient religions, revealing more about their primitive brutality than their spirituality. More enlightened descent myths of a Promethean nature do of course reveal an element of ‘punishment’ by the older gods for bringing wisdom to mankind, a punishment they willingly accept, but this is not the same as willingly sacrificing oneself for their own knowledge as did Óðinn, an act that also had nothing to do with maidens, altruism, or salvation of humanity.
Many kings actively engaged in near annihilation of all family contenders who might usurp them. Queens were political acquisitions, their ‘blood-line’ was unimportant. Their dowered lands, however, were. Because the grail is gnosis/wisdom, anyone may therefore be a seeker – the grail is pure and may be won by the true pilgrim; that is all that we believe; no more no less. It has nothing to do with monarchs, land, fertility, just the pursuit of Truth.
PAA: The Lord of the Hanged. The stories that Óðinn was able to pull people back from death, that he could return those who had been hanged to life. Could you speak a little on the story and also how this fits magically with Óðinn, are we saying this was a result of Óðinn’s own power or was he a vessel for something else?
SO: What a wonderful question, and one that is basically the theme of my first book within the Óðinn Trilogy. These claims are professed in the Eddas and Sagas, namely Ynglinga Saga, 7, as follows:
- Of Óðinn’s Feats.
“Óðinn could transform his shape: his body would lie as if dead, or asleep; but then he would be in shape of a fish, or worm, or bird, or beast, and be off in a twinkling to distant lands upon
his own or other people’s business. With words alone he could quench fire, still the ocean in tempest, and turn the wind to any quarter he pleased. Óðinn had a ship which was called
Skíðblaðnir, in which he sailed over wide seas, and which he could roll up like a cloth. Óðinn carried with him Mime’s head, which told him all the news of other countries. Sometimes even
he called the dead out of the earth, or set himself beside the burial-mounds; whence he was called the ghost-sovereign, and lord of the mounds. He had two ravens, to whom he had taught the speech of man; and they flew far and wide through the land, and brought him the news. In all such things he was pre-eminently wise. He taught all these arts in Runes, and songs which are called incantations, and therefore the Asaland people are called incantation-smiths. Óðinn understood also the art in which the greatest power is lodged, and which he himself practised; namely, what is called magic. By means of this he could know beforehand the predestined fate of men, or their not yet completed lot; and also bring on the death, ill-luck, or bad health of people, and take the strength or wit from one person and give it to another. But after such witchcraft followed such weakness and anxiety, that it was not thought respectable for men to practise it; and therefore, the priestesses were brought up in this art. Óðinn knew finely where all missing cattle were concealed under the earth, and understood the songs by which the earth, the hills, the stones, and mounds were opened to him; and he bound those who dwell in them by the power of his word, and went in and took what he pleased. From these arts he became very celebrated. His enemies dreaded him; his friends put their trust in him, and relied on his power and on himself. He taught the most of his arts to his priests of the sacrifices, and they came nearest to himself in all wisdom and witch-knowledge. Many others, however, occupied themselves much with it; and from that time witchcraft spread far and wide, and continued long. People sacrificed to Óðinn and the twelve chiefs from Asaland, and called them their gods, and believed in them long after. From Óðinn’s name came the name Audun, which people gave to his sons; and from Thor’s name comes Thore, also Thorarinn; and also it is sometimes compounded with other names, as Steenthor, or Havthor, or even altered in other ways.”
Of course, this is a mere fraction of the story, and my intensive research reveals how his abilities are the result of virtues Óðinn either stole or won (through cunning), from prominent female figures of Norse mythic history. They were not his initially, so in a way, yes, he did become a vessel for their transmission. According to tradition, those virtues were expressed and generated through the way of the warrior, who became well-versed in such techniques, but also through another much misunderstood praxis – Seiðr – the province of mainly female seers, though some men did practice this too. These modalities perfectly represent the duality and fluidity of Óðinnic tradition, and all apparent contradictions pursuant to them. As a cultic figure, much became attributed to his legend that was better placed elsewhere, generating a mythic role considerably wide of the mark. The subject is again, vast and complex, and I really do
advise anyone intrigued by this to read the Óðinn trilogy. The series tackles all the claims made in relation to these remarkable traits, the tropes that have sustained that belief and the reality or lack of historical provenance for those claims.
PAA: As a result of your studies and this series of books, how do you see the northern traditions, the Sámi, the remains of the traditions that you mention in Óðinn’s path? Do you feel that the current running through those systems is still there?
SO: To answer that, may I use a direct quote from ‘The Search for Óðinn’?
“Recognisable elements indicative of Sámi influence are crucial in our understanding of the development of Nordic social custom and culture. Pre-historic cross-pollination from the circumpolar regions and the areas that would form Eurasia are clearly present, as are the historic influences from
Eastern Europe. Norse culture was unequivocally entrenched with all things of the ‘Otherworld.’ Tasked with understanding that world in ours, in the 21st Century, we are seriously disadvantaged, for our world is filled only with the tangible, the immediate; all other forms are generally beyond our kenning. All organic life is imbued with an animistic presence, and when fashioned into personal tools and weapons, some were deemed to possess a sentience independent of their owners. Mythemes evolved from this basic belief, relating particularly to clothing and weapons, thus creating a distinct and recognisable cultural identity. These items additionally embody crucial qualities for the preservation of the histories attached to them, often acquiring their own separate legends. Their exclusivity strengthens the unique tenacity of narratives associated with them; the mere mention of them infers a formative relationship where none is expressed or elaborated upon. That mystique resides within cultural memory, and is consequently an impressive weapon in the right hands; given agency, anthropomorphic ‘gods’ developed as extensions of divine power. Art became the primary expression of this power; symbolism developed to articulate past mythic history as social power in the present. In favourable conditions, myth achieves written form. (…) Myth is the poesis of folkloric narrative tradition. (…) Epic and heroic poetry became the artistic expression of that premise within a group whose common destiny was interwoven with origin. (…) Myths of origin are essential constructions within a bonded ethnicity. Both personal and social memory serve the fundamental issue of tribal community, from who belongs, to who does not. Oral transmission is an art; memory manifests in the spoken word, therefore Óðinn’s greatest gift is related to an ability to recall and preserve it through the power and transmission of the word in a manner both accessible and articulate in its repetition.”
So, it can be shown from this alone, how an understanding of history and culture nurture and influence both our present and our future, from custom to enterprise, literally, from life through to death, and beyond of course. Animistic cosmology thus developed into ancient myth. It is of some relevance that the relationship between the Æsir and the giants in myth parallels that between the Norwegians and the Sámi in the sagas.
“Reaching back into the Mesolithic period, to around 5200 B.C.E., archaeological evidence is able to confirm the presence of semi-nomadic PreProto-Indo-European groups of hunter-gatherers on the Pontic-Caspian Steppes who selectively raised cattle for sacral and ritual purposes. Feasting and
propitiation of Otherworld spirits were the foundation of unwavering cultural tradition that endured for thousands of years, lingering even into the Middle Ages. Ambitious leaders recognised the potential for power in cattle used for trade and currency. Increased wealth meant that feeding a dedicated military elite became possible. Cults arose in the wake of a new generation of priestly
prophets and men of might and means, displacing former shamen whose relationship with the Other secured and maintained successful hunting. Those changes forced a re-defining of core beliefs, including humankind’s relationships with the divine, the dead, and with other human beings. Natural
changes developed in both individual and communal thinking: “The evolutionary process is a matter of culture as well as biology.” Effectively, and in ritualistic terms, the ‘Lord of the Hunt’ was replaced by the ‘Lord of the Animals,’ coexisting only on the marginal peripheries where sedentary farmers
and stock-breeders merged with the sedentary and semi-nomadic hunters.
During the 13th Century, Saxo refers to a poignant event on the battlefield where a dying man is directed to look through the hole or portal created in the bent arm of his wife to see Óðinn as death coming for him. A contemporaneous account in the Ynglinga Saga, describes the entrance to Valhǫll as an opening in the stones, intimated as under the ground, where the dead dwell in their
mounds. Like Hliðskjálf, these solitary openings have given rise to a speculative premise that relates to the eye of Óðinn observing the realms of death through hallowed portals. In Sámi tradition, the rocky mounds of the dead are cited in a sacred landscape, and if holed stones occur naturally there, offerings are left for the mountain spirits. Smaller, portable holed stones are utilised for
prophecy. If found near water sources, their holiness increases significantly. In many ancient cultures, mounds, howes, cairns, barrows, tells, and kurgans are places were often constructed with holes through which offerings were presented to the dead who lay within. Sacred clefts beneath two large rocks are referred to as the gate of Hel.”
PAA: How do you relate your research on Óðinn to your own practice of Cochrane’s Craft and Traditional Witchcraft?
SO: As noted above, the research relating to the customs of ritual and belief throughout the northern regions, spanning many hundreds of years, has affirmed and enriched how we experience those traditions in our own time. Historical accuracy is vital to that process, ensuring we do not stray into the realms of fantasy and wish fulfillment. Robert Cochrane was keenly aware of this necessity as a “continuity of cult.” In terms of Traditional Witchcraft, the research into how magic was perceived and practiced by our ancestors, what they actually did, rather than what we assume they did, again offers modern practitioners the opportunity to incorporate accurate procedures in their own praxes. We do not need to be slaves to the past to appreciate the purpose and value of time-honoured custom. Knowledge is ever the key. The past has must to share, and much to teach us.
PAA: How do you view the relationship between the Horned God and the White Goddess?
SO: Ahh, a tricky question to answer, as there is no relationship as such within the mythos of CTC. In fact, despite its popularity, it is one of the many false notions attributed to our praxis. Robert Graves’ exploration into the mythopoeia of the White Goddess was very much a personal argosy that paralleled that of Robert Cochrane, but which differed on many counts. Their divergences of opinion were shared in
correspondence during the early 1960s. Cochrane said:
This astute comment highlights two very important factors; the first is his understanding of Her as a ‘Multi-faceted’ being, wholly distinct from the widely popular Maid, Mother Crone personification favoured by Wican’s, Wiccan’s and Pagans. Secondly, free of that restriction, She is truly ineffable and without parallel. She stands alone, without a consort, though Her works and deeds are championed by
specific male entities, namely the Young and Old Horned Kings, who reflect and channel the virtues of the Horn(ed) God, who also serves Her. He does not partner Her. They are not a couple, nor are they equal. He represents marked virtues, particular to his character that enhance and complement Hers. She is all aspects of Faith, Gnosis and Truth. She is the Muse who inspires. He is all aspects of Duty, Honour, Obligation and Troth. He is the Leader who guides and directs the forms that inspiration takes. The Mysteries within our Craft Tradition seek to explore and understand these tenets so that we may apply them to our lives, thus enriching our purpose and our experiences as we move slowly but steadfastly to our destined evolution.
PAA: How did you approach the sources and texts that you used for your study, such as Hávamál, Vǫluspá, Skáldskaparmál, Grímnismál, Heimskringla and Ynglinga Sagas?
SO: Another wonderful question. Cognition is crucial. It is imperative that primary sources are always approached openly and cautiously (without naiveté) and with full awareness and appreciation for their restricted representation. In other words, they are in every sense, a product of their time. Any impression received from them, should be metered against any available supportive archaeology. Nothing should
be taken at face value. These texts are invaluable, but we should no more accept them as historical accounts than we would the medieval Arthurian legends. That was never their purpose, so we must resist attributing that merit to them. My own approach was undertaken with a view to understanding the role of the skaldic traditions of storytelling and of hospitality in a tumultuous, changing world, of faith, politics and social structure. Close analysis and immersion of the verse invokes the inherent sense of heroism and social obligations across all levels of society, which induces a deeper understanding of their world on their terms. Ours is so very different, yet it does not mean the past has no value. On the contrary, whence we recognise the human element, the application of context becomes more amenable. A lived tradition stands or falls on this ability. If all we take from these texts bears no relevance to our lives, our disconnection is complete.
PAA: What are some of the challenges and controversies that you faced or anticipated while writing this book?
SO: There were several challenges, namely, finding solid, reliable source material to study. So much is repetitive, jaded or simply hackneyed beyond all use. The best research has yet to be translated and so much remains in German, Icelandic or Swedish. That was a tough hurdle to overcome. More importantly though, I realised my findings suggest very different perspectives to those in popular circulation. Culling
sacred cows is a thankless task, but as Truth is the maxim of my tradition, I am obliged to speak it as I see it.
PAA: What are some of the main insights or discoveries that you hope your readers will gain from reading this book?
SO: It is my most sincere hope that readers will find value in my research and find my arguments persuasive enough for them to reappraise their thinking and approach to the northern traditions and culture. Removing the false and negative associations attributed to them is long overdue; removing the gloss and bias of recent decades is so needful; removing the nonsenses atrophied in popular opinion is
essential in a world where culture and belief wane daily. If I am thus able to revive interest in those things, and if people once again are able to rediscover the ‘Other,’ raw and magnificent, sans fantasy and illusion, then my work is well seeded.
PAA: Is there is anything else you would like to share?
SO: Only to add that because my life’s work is dedicated to my Craft and my Faith, I have written profusely on all aspects relating to it. May I please direct anyone who finds anything here of interest, to further explore them at their leisure. This Interview was a marvelous opportunity to introduce those works, but as they are extensive, the answers here, touch only the merest tip of that mountain.
My sincere thanks. xxxfffxxx
BIO: ABOUT Shani Oates
Shani Oates is Maid and Matriarch of ‘The People of Goda, the Clan of Tubal Cain.’ As an Independent Researcher, historian and writer of cultural Folk-lore and Folk-magics of the UK and its Northern Heritage, of Traditional Craft and Ancestral Tradition, (particularly of the Robert Cochrane Tradition), her work continues to inform her duties as Spae-wife, and her pursuits as an Occultist, Mystic, and Luciferian Pilgrim of the Forbidden Arts. A published author, her substantial writings and musings on wide-ranging occult themes are transmitted into several books via Mandrake of Oxford: ‘Tubelos Green Fire’; ‘The Arcane Veil’; ‘The ‘Star Crossed Serpent’ series (Volumes I -IV); The People of Goda, Tubal’s Mill & TM: Legend, Paean to Hekate (through Create Space); ‘The Realworld Art of Cunning Craft through Hell-Fire Books,’; ‘Crafting the Arte of Tradition,’ ‘The Devil’s Supper,’ ‘The Hanged God,’ ‘ Wolfs-Head,’ and ‘The Search for Óðinn’ through Anathema Publishing Ltd.
Her other works have also appeared in various Pagan and occult journals, magazines including The Cauldron, The Pentacle, The Wytches Standard, Verdelet, White Dragon, Pagan Dawn, Pendragon, Hedge Wytch, Goddess Alive, and Brigid’s Fire. Numerous articles in other Craft Anthologies, publications, periodicals and magazines over the last two decades including ‘Hekate: Her Sacred Fires’ by Avalonia Press, in ‘The Wanton Green’ by Mandrake of Oxford and in ‘Abraxas II’ by Fulgur. For a detailed bibliography and further works, visit:
Website & Social Media:
Learn with Perseus Courses
We have long term practitioners waiting to share their experience with those wanting to begin or deepen their practice in Magick, Evocation and Kabbalah