First Letter from Robert Cochrane to Joe Wilson
20 Dec 1965
Dear Mr. Wilson,
I read your advertisement in ‘Pentagram’ with
The Pentagram was a very short newsletter for witches in the 60s. It consisted of a few pages and included personal advertisements. At the beginning of the witchcraft revival this is how people met each other and shared ideas. This is also the origin of pseudonyms for regular people who were witches. For example Robert Cochrane was really Roy Bowers. Most such people who communicated this way also had PO Boxes.
considerable interest; being somewhat interested and involved with the Faith of the People.
I have recently been delving into the symbolism of the ley systems, and corresponding Herme posts that are scattered throughout Europe – and also America. I wonder if you have any knowledge of the Amerind system that was a marked part of the Sioux, and which appears to have extended from Mass: throughout the Great Plains, and into South America. I appear to have worded that somewhat badly – I meant the tradition of the ley-path, not the actual system itself. The South American maze leys are of particular interest, since they correspond very closely to part of a tradition that exists in Britain today; albeit the symbolism used is of a somewhat different origin.
I understand from your advertisement that you are also interested in Druidism, an interesting thing is that the original Druids still appear to exist – since I am in contact with an old man, born inside the pale of the Faith, who claims hereditary knowledge of the Druidical beliefs – and it appears that what he was taught as a child and young man, and what is claimed to be Druidism by modern sects and historians, are two very different things.
I too have encountered folks like this. Additionally in America in the Ozarks, cunning folk were sometimes called Druids. Although people scoff, there is a tradition of folks who believe they are descendants of druids who went underground in the Medieval period and passed on aspects of druidry through folk magic. New archaeology is starting to confirm some kind of underground pagan survival in the British Isles. Pit animal sacrifice offerings, known in the ancient world and druidry, dated from the medieval period to the 20th century at The Saveok Water Archaeology site is an excellent example, and not far from where Cochrane was practicing.
Are you a member of admission, and do you understand the order of 1734? A somewhat rude question, but since I cannot ask the traditional questions in writing, I have to ask somewhat impolite questions.
Traditional questions might include the true names of witch gods.
I understand from the family that there was at one time quite a considerable influx of the Faith into America — in settlements in the Midwest. The symbols used by the state of Texas point towards this being a fact. Some of the neo-pagan traditions of the hill folk also point towards a considerable belief in the religion of the Three Mothers, Kansas being one of the states in which this appears. The Horsemen, of which my father was a member, appear to have settled in force in the cattle and sheep areas, so it is very possible that the clan system is still present in the Midwest.
Feri has such roots, for example, Ozark magic via Cora’s uncle who was known as a druid in their community. And the Harpy coven that migrated to Oregon during the Dustbowl of the Depression from the midwest. Pentagrams were carried on in fraternal orders like the Masons and the Order of the Eastern Star. The appearance of occult symbols in major American symbols is not surprising when you learn how many of our founders were in fraternal orders. The system of using the points of the pentacles as teaching spiritual lessons is present in such fraternal orders and extends into a number of American forms of witchcraft too. Our dollar bills are a great example too. Witchcraft moves in and out of fraternal orders as is present in the origins of Wicca too.
I appear to have asked many questions and given you no information about myself. I am male, married, a member of the People of two admissions, and aged 35. I know the right and left hand language, the story of the flood, and of the child that survived, I have seen One become Seven, and Seven One,
A little Harry Potterish here? The boy who lived. True of Taliesin aka Gwion Bach too, Cerwidden threw him into the waves and he lived. The bright child is a reoccuring myth of spiritual significance that will come up again in the letters. The Seven in One refers to the Watchers as well as the directions of the compass, which of course are present in a number of Celtic prayers like St. Patrick’s breastplate. The witches foot likewise represents this three-dimensional understanding of place. Above me, below me, before me, behind me, to the right of me and the left of me and within me. The mystical meanings survive in such pagan-christian fusions as the Carmena Gadelica.
“Whirled without motion between three Elements”, as Gwion said and am still learning how many beans make five, and the number of steps in a ladder. I come from the country of the Oak, the Ash and the Thorn.
There are many layers of meaning to the code Oak Ash and Thorn. Of course there is the presence of the actual trees. Oak Ash and THorn (the old letter for th was one letter that resembled a Y) spells Oath. I think this means that Cochranes people are people of the Oath or the pact with the land. Rudyard Kipling picked up this bit of lore when he was living in Sussex with the farming people and he wrote about it in his novel Puck of Pook’s Hill. The song about Oak Ash and Thorn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oF9bMLqC1iw A later letter expands further on the meanings and powers of the three trees.
I am against the present form of Gardnerism, and all kindred movements, although, like ‘Taliesin’, I believe they could become something far greater.
Cochrane had joined one of Gardner’s covens, but found it greatly lacking. He became obsessed with Gardner to the point that his coven meetings were more ranting than witchcraft that well known witch Doreen Valiente quit and went solitary. Lugh was a code name for Bill Liddell the current head of the Pickingill tradition. At one time entirely discredited but recent research is supporting the history of the Canedwon witches. Subscribe the Cauldron magazine for more details as they emerge, especially watch articles by William Wallworth who has done excellent research. This is one to keep on top of, many discredited traditional witchcraft roots are be proven credible with additional research—Hutton is not the final word on the history of witchcraft in Britain.
My religious beliefs are found in an ancient song, ” Green Grow the Rushes O “,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k1Td8TmbKg We can analyze this one later too.
and I am an admirer, and a critic of Robert Graves.
Another note on Robert Graves here. Although people say that he originated the triple goddess form with maiden mother and crone, it does predate him and is also in Rudyard Kipling’s series about Puck. It is possibly also old traditional Sussex witchcraft lore—but at the very least Grave’s didn’t invent it. As Rudyard wrote about it in 1909. And arguable Kipling could have learnt it from folk magic practitioners and witches.
Flags, Flax and Fodder