the Black Forest Circle and Seminary
Circa 1990 - 2010
and compiled by George Knowles
Silver Ravenwolf is the founder and leader of the Black Forest Circle and Seminary, a pagan organization of Clans (covens) located across the United States and Canada. A prominent American author of numerous neo-pagan books and novels, and founder of the Wiccan/Pagan Press Alliance (WPPA), her books have been reviewed in such prestigious publications as the New York Times, Newsweek Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. As a teacher and lecturer she travels widely with her husband Mike (Mindwalker) and presents workshops at major events and festivals across the United States.
Born Jenine E. Trayer on the 11th September 1956, and raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Ravenwolf received her formal education from Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, and later in 1976 attended the Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC). According to one of her websites, Ravenwolf’s German ancestry can be traced to Black Forest area of Germany before the first of her family members, a George Becker, immigrated to America and settled in the Township of Paradise, Pennsylvania, in the 1700’s. George was a millwright by trade and fathered seven children, who later dispersed and settled in the areas of York, Adams, and Cumberland counties of Pennsylvania.
At the age of five,
she claims to remember wondering why God was not a woman, or why he didn’t
have a wife, and so began to question traditional Church beliefs.
In her early teens she was given a deck of Tarot cards, a present from an
older cousin, and some time later was accused of being a Witch by fundamentalist
neighbours. Later at the age of
seventeen her mother died of leukemia, and this together with the lack of
support they received from the religious establishment, caused her to reject
traditional religion and turn to studying metaphysics and alternative religions.
During the late 1970’s however, Pagan publishing was
still in its infancy, and the market for real books about Paganism and Witchcraft
was limited. One of the few books
she found was “Diary of a Witch” (1969) by Sybil Leek.
Through the early 1980’s and despite
being an army mom raising four children (she married in 1981, and by 1986 had
two daughters Falcon and Echo,
and two sons Dragon and ????), she continued her researches and became
directly involved in the Craft.
By 1983 as New Age
Witchcraft and Paganism spread across the USA, there was a proliferation of
poorly written amateur newsletters and magazines all focusing on similar
aspects of the Craft. This was just
before the popularity of home computers and Internet publishing changed the way
we communicated. Seeing a need for
writers, authors, editors and publishers to communicate with each other and
share information, Ravenwolf founded the Wiccan/Pagan Press Alliance (WPPA) with
a quarterly newsletter The
Midnight Drive (later
re-named Of Writers and Witches) as
a networking vehicle to support it. In
it she featured articles not just about Witchcraft, Paganism and current events,
but focused on tips about writing, publishing and marketing, how to work with
mainstream publishers and the media, and where and what publications were still
available. In this way she was
directly responsible for inspiring many of today’s top Pagan authors.
Eventually in 1989 she took her formal First Degree
initiation with Lady Bried Foxsong of the Sacred Hart and completed her Third
Degree in November of 1991. She is
listed on the Rolls of the International Red Garters, and holds Third Degree
status in the Temple of Hecate Triskele of the Caledonii Tradition.
In 1996 she was elevated to Elder by Lord Serphant (deceased) of the Family of
Serphant Stone at the Puff Gathering in North Carolina.
She received a Second Elevation in the Druidic
Order of the Divine Circle of the Sacred Grove in Arizona from Lady Jeanette
Copeland and Lord Kalman Mannis, and was trained in Houngon Hoodoo by Ray
Malbrough (an Author and initiate of Raymond Buckland).
She has also received training from Preston Zerbe (deceased) in
the Pennsylvania Dutch Pow-Wow Tradition. On
the 17th March 2002 she earned a Coronation in Spiritualism and also
holds Master Certificates in Reiki and Karuna-Ki.
Her hearthstone coven is known as the Coven of the Omega Wolf, and she
now also leads the Black Forest Circle and Seminary.
Ray Malbrough, Mike MindWalker, Ravenwolf and Raymond Buckland.
The Black Forest Circle
According to one of their websites, the Black Forest Circle, founded in 1993, is considered Euro-Wiccan and draws from her German heritage and training in the Gardnerian, Caledonii and Pow-Wow traditions. It also states that the Black Forest is not a social organization and that their training program is designed specifically for Wiccan Clergy; therefore it is not suitable for newcomers to the Craft. New members must have a minimum of one year’s prior experience in the Craft and be active in their local communities before being dedicated into a Black Forest Clan. Most Black Forest members are over the age of thirty-five and all are family-oriented. Many have been chosen by RavenWolf or her husband MindWalker during their travels across the United States.
Each Clan consists of both male and female members holding
various grades or levels of experience:
Dedicants, or Gutuaters (new members).
First Degree, or Vates.
Second Degree, or Fildhe.
Third Degree, or Druidh.
Elder, or Arc Druidth
"Clan Mother or Father"
Training for Dedicants is taught through a series of ten
written lessons created by RavenWolf, with each level regulated by a
list of guidelines, responsibilities and set goals to be accomplished before
moving into the next level. First
Degree members are allowed to teach Dedicants in informal study groups.
Some study groups develop into new Clans, which are led by a High Priest,
High Priestess or by both. Members
who have achieved their Second Degree and passed an instructor’s examination,
can petitioned the Clan Head to form a new Coven, but this needs to be approved
by Ravenwolf. The Third Degree is
only bequeathed to those who have completed all lessons, performed 100 hours of
community service, and passed a monitored six-hour written examination. Successful Third Degree members are then bestowed with a
legal Ordination Certificate and a Charter verifying their Clergy status in the
State of Pennsylvania. To reach
Ordination normally takes four to five years of intensive study.
Celebrations and Meetings
The Black Forest, like most Pagans, celebrates the seasonal
changes of the year, the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, the Winter and Summer
Solstices, as well as Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnassadh and Samhain.
At ceremonies such as Dedications, Initiations and Elevations, their
traditional dress is a black robe tied with a coloured cord (silver, gold or
black) designating the status of the member.
All ritual aspects of ceremonies such as altar devotions, circle casting
and quarter calls etc., are uniform throughout all Clans.
A mandatory annual Grand Coven meeting is held during which each member has an equal vote in administrative
decisions and important Clan issues.
The Black Forest Circle has a motto
- We don’t hive -- we
Books and Criticism
Ravenwolf has written 28 books: 20 non-fiction, 4 with Spanish titles, and another 4 as mystery novels. Her first book To Ride A Silver Broomstick (1993) was an instant best seller, selling over 300,000 copies, and today continues to be referenced by new and experienced practitioners. Her other best selling books include To Stir a Magick Cauldron (1995, sold 100,000 copies), Teen Witch (1998, sold 200,000 copies), and Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows (2003, sold 200,000 copies). Her latest book HedgeWitch (2008) also seems set to become a bestseller, but time will tell.
Sadly it needs
to be mentioned that a couple of her books have engendered some serious
criticism, namely To Ride a Silver Broomstick and Teen Witch.
In both these books her writing style is variously described as arrogant,
patronizing and condescending, while her historical content is condemned as
inaccurate. She is also accused of
rampant religious bigotry and a serious lack of morality (see sources below).
Well if so, with accumulative sales of over 500,000 between them, many
readers may not share this opinion.
only have a couple of her books in my own library, and most probably I shall
not buy any more, for quite simply I have outgrown their basic level of
teaching. Nevertheless after a
review, I do find most of these criticisms to be trifling. Yes I have found a
few historical inaccuracies,
but then she is not an acclaimed academic, and I was not expecting to read a
doctoral thesis. Yes, I find her tone is sometimes arrogant,
patronizing and condescending,
but then I deal with similar people each day, and it doesn’t mean I cannot
learn from them. That she has a
bias against Christianity is apparent, but such is her prerogative, and her
comments causing into question morality, seem to me to have been made
How sad is it
that someone who has dedicated her life to revealing the basic inner working of
the Craft, as she percieves it, should have to suffer such snide criticisms when
the sheer volume of useful information available
through her books far outweigh such pettiness.
Nobody is perfect, so to the critics I say - “grow up and behave” - there are much worse books
to be had deserving such criticism and not the least as useful or as informative
as those written by Ravenwolf.
Today with all her children grown up, Ravenwolf’s main
interests include: Classical
Astrology, Alternative Healing, Pow-Wow
(Braucherei), History, Genealogy,
Tai Chi, Photography, Acrylic painting, making candles, fine jewellery, oils,
incense, knitting and crafty-crafts, for which she maintains an Ebay auction
store at: http://www.stores.ebay.com/silverravenwolfdesigns
She currently resides in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, from where she leads the Black
Forest Circle and Seminary.
To Ride a Silver Broomstick: New Generation Witchcraft, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1993.
Beneath a Mountain Moon (novel), Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1995.
To Stir a Magick Cauldron: A Witch's Guide to Casting and Conjuring, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1995.
HexCraft: Dutch Country Pow-Wow Magick, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1995.
The Rune Mysteries, (With Nigel Jackson) Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1996, second edition, 1999.
Angels: Companions in Magick, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1996.
American Folk Magick: Charms, Spells, and Herbals, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1998.
Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation (young adult nonfiction), Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1998.
To Light a Sacred Flame: Practical Witchcraft for the Millennium, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1999.
Silver’s Spells for Prosperity, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1999.
Halloween: Customs, Recipes, Spells, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1999.
Silver’s Spells for Protection, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2000.
Silver RavenWolf’s Teen Witch Kit: Everything You Need to Make Magick! (illustrated by Natasha Melhuish), Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2000.
Murder at Witches’ Bluff: A Novel of Suspense and Magick, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2000.
Silver’s Spells for Love, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2001.
Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation (young adult nonfiction), Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2003.
Silver's Spells for Abundance, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN) 2004.
Notebook: Lessons in Witchcraft, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN) 2005
Secrets of Energy, Magick & Manifestation,
Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN) 2006
Spells, Crafts & Rituals For Natural Magick,
Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN) 2008
Para El Amor
Para la Prosperidad
Para la Proteccion
Brujas: Un Manual Practico de Brujeria Para Jovenes
(The Witches Chiller Series)
Night Out, Llewellyn
(St. Paul, MN), 2000.
Key to Terror,
Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2001.
Night of Fear,
Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2001.
Voodoo Moon, Llewellyn
(St. Paul, MN), 2003.
(Celebrating Silver RavenWolf)
(Why We Despise Silver Ravenwolf)
(The Problem With Silver Ravenwolf)
Plus others too many to mention.
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek
Mythology) / Esbats &
Full Moons / Links
to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft
Resources / What's a spell? /
Circle Casting and
Sacred Space / Pentagram
- Pentacle / Marks
of a Witch / The Witches
Power / The Witches Hat
esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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