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Stewart Farrar (1916-2000)

Written and compiled by George Knowles. 

Stewart Farrar was a journalist and prolific author of contemporary fiction and non-fiction books and articles about Witchcraft.  Through his books, Farrar with his seventh wife Janet did much to explain the workings of modern witchcraft to the curious.  Initiated into the craft in 1970 by the flamboyant Alex Sanders, over the following 30 years until his death in 2000, Stewart Farrar became the UK’s leading voice and expert on matters pertaining to Witchcraft. 

Stewart Farrar was born on the 28th of June 1916, at 239 Winchester Road, Highams Park in Walthamstow, London.  The son of a bank official Frank Farrar and Agnes (nee Picken) a schoolteacher, he was brought up in middle-class suburbia as a Christian scientist, but turned agnostic by the time he was 20.  For his early education he attended the City of London School for Boys, before enrolling at University College London to study journalism.  While in college he served as President of the London University Journalism Union and Editor of the London Union Magazine before graduating with a degree in journalism in 1937. 

At the outset of World War II in 1939, Farrar voluntarily joined the Army where he remained for the duration.  Commissioned as a Captain, he became an officer instructor in charge of Anti-aircraft gunnery, in which capacity he was asked to write the instruction manual for the 40mm Bofors gun, his first taste of serious writing.  Discharged in 1946 with the rank of Major, Farrar decided to stay on in Germany and worked as a civilian for the Allied Control Commission as liaison/public relations and press officer for the German Coal Board.  His experiences in post-war Germany and the things he saw in the immediate aftermath of war (he was one of the first British officers to enter Auschwitz) greatly influenced his personal and political beliefs.

Returning to England in 1947, he again took up journalism and by 1953 was working out of London's Reuters office.  In 1954, he quit his job with Reuters and joined the British Communist Party as editor of the Daily Worker.  He remained a member of the Communist Party until the Hungarian uprisings, during which time he became disillusioned with the force the Soviets were using and left the party.

During the next six years, Farrar worked for the Associated British-Pathe and A. B. C. Television as a scriptwriter, he also did freelance work for the BBC (the British Broadcasting Company).  His work for the BBC during the 1960's included the award-winning radio play “Watch the Wall my Darling”, a children's TV series called “The Boy Merlin” and “Pity About the Abbey”, a play for television that he co-wrote with the poet John Betjeman.

In 1958, Farrar wrote his first fiction novel, a detective thriller called ‘The Snake on 99’ (published by Collins Press, London), followed by two more detective novels ‘Zero in the Gate’ (published by Walker, NY in 1961) and ‘Death in the Wrong Bed’ (also by Walker, NY in 1963).  Using the pen name ‘Laurie Stewart’, Farrar also wrote a romance novel called ‘ Delphine, Be a Darling’ (published by Hurst & Blackett, London in 1963).

In 1969 while working as a reporter for the weekly newspaper Reveille, Farrar was sent to review a film called “Legend of the Witches”.  His assignment was to write an article on Alex Sanders, the so-called “King of the Witches” and his wife Maxine.  Both had appeared in and provided technical advice on the film.  Alex Sanders was something of a showman and was gaining notoriety in the news of that time, and Farrar’s editor felt there might be a story to tell.

Farrar succeeded in gaining an interview with Alex Sanders and from it wrote a two-part feature, this was later published in the Reveille.  Due to the success of this feature, Sanders invited Farrar to write a new book, a compliment to his already published biography the “King of the Witches” written sometime earlier by June Johns.  The new book was be about modern witches, “What they do, believe and why”.  The result was the writing of Farrar’s most famous book, now a classic in it’s own time “What Witches Do”.

While writing “What Witches Do”, Stewart decided that in order to write a true account of ‘what they do’, he would need to become a witch himself.  Maxine Sanders, Alex Sanders’ wife and High priestess, initiated Stewart into their craft tradition on the 21 February 1970.  While training with their coven, Farrar met another initiate called Janet Owen (thirty-four years his junior), who later became his wife.  According to Janet, they were both elevated to the second degree by Sanders on the 17th October 1970, and received their third degree on the 24th April 1971, but some Alexandrian revisionists have disputed these events.

“What Witches Do”, Farrar’s first non-fiction book was published in 1971 by Peter Davies of London.  The book clearly established Farrar as a voice promoting Wicca in the community.  However the book was controversial, for it included incidents that Sanders had fabricated about himself.  Farrar also asserted that Sanders ranked above Gerald B. Gardner and alongside Aleister Crowley and Eliphas Levi in terms of magical achievement, a statement that was ridiculed by many.  To his credit, Farrar later admitted that he may have been too credulous, and no long placed Sanders on the same level as Crowley, Levi and Gardner.  Nevertheless, he refused to disparage Sanders by adding that in his own way he had made a significant contribution to Contemporary Witchcraft.

After taking their second degree Stewart and Janet decided to leave the Sanders’ coven and set up on their own, but under supervision.  They founded their own coven during the Yule festivities of 1970,and after gaining their third degrees in April 1971 became independent.  While indebted to the Sanders’ for their initial training in the craft, both Stewart and Janet felt that much of their teaching was sparse in content.  From the start of their own coven in 1970, they both worked to develop and structure their own rituals and training methods for use within their own covens.  Stewart and Janet handfasted in 1972, and were legally married at the Registry Office in Woking, Surrey in 1975, attended by Farrar's two daughters and two sons from three previous marriages.  His marriage to Janet Owen was his seventh.

In April 1976, fed-up with the pace and toil of life in the crowded streets of London, they turned their coven over to Susan and David Buckingham and moved to the Republic of Ireland for the peace and quiet of the fields and mountains in County Mayo and County Wicklow, finally settling in at a two-bedroom cottage on the bog called “Herne Cottage” in Kells, County Meath.  From there they continued to expand and found new covens.  The structure and method of their workings had by this time developed and had changed radically from their original Alexandrian beginnings.  Today some seventy five percent of Wiccans, both in the Republic and Northern Ireland, can trace their roots back to the Farrar’s.

Living in peaceful surrounding they each collaborated on writing some of the most influential books on modern witchcraft published to date.  Such books as: Eight Sabbats for Witches and The Witches Way (jointly published as The Witches Bible), also The Witches Goddess, The Witches God, and Spells and How They Work (see Bibliography below).  Their writings, some of which have now reached classic status, are an influence to both practitioners and future craft writers alike.  They have also lectured in the United States, as well as Europe and the Netherlands, and are now exploring video as a medium for presenting further information on modern Paganism.

The Farrar’s returned to England in 1988, but returned to Ireland in 1993.  There they were joined by Gavin Bone and entered into a “polyamory relationship”.  In 1995, Stewart Farrar suffered a stroke, and Gavin as a trained nurse and healer was instrumental in helping him back to good health.  The three of them co-author two more books ‘The Healing Craft’ and ‘The Pagan Path’.  

Having developed their own brand of witchcraft, the Farrar’s became honorary initiates of several other traditions including “Traditional Italian Strega”.  In 1999, they were ordained as third-level clergy with the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, and also hold the charter for the same in Ireland.  This is now based at the Tempal Na Callaighe in Ireland.

Despite all their achievements and adornments, the Farrar’s prefer to be known simply as “Wiccans”, working on the Pagan Path.  They believed strongly in the idea of Wicca being a progressive and dynamic religion that is accessible to all whom wanted to belong.  After a brief illness Stewart Farrar passed into the next world on the 7th of February 2000.

 

Bibliography

 

Books by Stewart Farrar as the sole author:

The Snake on 99 (1958) Collins Press, London

Zero in the Gate (1961) Walker, NY

Death in the Wrong Bed (1963) Walker, NY

Delphine, Be a Darling (1963) (under pen name Laurie Stewart) Hurst & Blackett, London

What Witches Do: A Modern Coven Revealed (1971) Peter Davies, London - ISBN: 0963065777

The Twelve Maidens (1973) Michael Joseph, London - ISBN 1578633907

The Serpent of Lilith (1976) (under pen name Margot Villiers) Arrow Books, London

The Dance of Blood (1977) Arrow Books, London

The Sword of Orley (1977) Michael Joseph, London

Omega (1980) Arrow Books, London - ISBN 1578633893

Forcible Entry (1986) Robert Hale, London

Blacklash (1988) Robert Hale, London

Witches' Dozen (1996) Godolphin House, New Bern, NC

 

Books with Janet Farrar:

A Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches' Handbook (1981 re-issue of The Witches' Way and Eight Sabbats for Witches) Robert Hale, London - ISBN 0919345921

Eight Sabbats for Witches (1981) Robert Hale, London (Hardcover) - ISBN 0-7091-8579-0

The Witches' Way (1984) Robert Hale, London - ISBN 0-7090-1293-4

The Witches' Goddess: The Feminine Principle of Divinity (1987) Robert Hale, London - ISBN 0919345913

The Life and Times of a Modern Witch (1987) Piatkus Books, London

The Witches' God: Lord of the Dance (1989) Robert Hale, London - ISBN 0919345476

Spells and How They Work (1990) Robert Hale, London - ISBN 0-7090-3842-9

 

Books with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone:

Pagan Path: The Wiccan Way of Life (1995) Phoenix Publishing - ISBN 0-919345-40-9

The Healing Craft: Healing Practices for Witches and Pagans (1999) Phoenix Publications Inc., Custer, WA - ISBN 0-7090-6563-9

The Complete Dictionary of European Gods and Goddesses (2000) Capall Bann Publishers - ISBN 1-86163-122-7

 

 

Sources

  The Encyclopedia of Witches &Witchcraft  - by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.

Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft  - By Raven Grimassi

A Witches' Bible  - By Janet and Stewart Farrar

What Witches Do  - By Stewart Farrar

 

First published on the 25th April 2001, 22:01:18 © George Knowles

Best wishes and Blessed Be

 

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About me:

 

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Wicca & Witchcraft

 

Wicca/Witchcraft /  What is WiccaWhat is Magick

 

 

Traditional Writings:

 

 Wiccan RedeCharge of the GoddessCharge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches ChantThe Witches CreedDescent of the GoddessDrawing Down the MoonThe Great Rite InvocationInvocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of ChivalryA Pledge to Pagan Spirituality

 

Correspondence Tables:

 

IncenseCandlesColoursMagickal DaysStones and GemsElements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

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 MoonsLinks to Personal Friends & ResourcesWicca/Witchcraft ResourcesWhat's a spell?Circle Casting and Sacred Space /  Pentagram - PentacleMarks of a WitchThe Witches PowerThe Witches HatAn esoteric guide to visiting LondonSatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  /  Part 2 Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /  The History of ThanksgivingI have a Dream, the 1963 speach by civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King /  Auras by Graham Furnell - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

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)

 

Rituals contributed by Crone:  Samhain / YuleImbolcOstara /  BeltaneLithaLammasMabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron MagickMirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrowFoxFrog and ToadsGoat / HoneybeeKangarooLionOwlPhoenixRabbits and HaresRavenRobin RedbreastSheep SpiderSquirrelSwansWild Boar /  Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

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 /  ElderAlso see:  The Willow Tree (Folk Music)

 

Sacred Sites:

 

Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /

 

Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

 Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:   / Apophyllite  / Amber AmethystAquamarineAragoniteAventurineBlack TourmalineBloodstoneCalciteCarnelianCelestiteCitrineChrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / FluoriteGarnet /  Hematite Herkimer DiamondLabradoriteLapis LazuliMalachiteMoonstoneObsidianOpalPyriteQuartz (Rock Crystal)Rose QuartzRubySeleniteSeraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodaliteSunstoneThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakeningThe Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods

 

Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:

 

Murder by WitchcraftThe Fairy Witch of ClonmelA Battleship, U-boat, and a WitchThe Troll-Tear (A story for Children)Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-LanternThe Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark

 

Old Masters of Academia:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)

 

Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the MageAgrippaAidan A. KellyAlbertus Magnus “Albert the Great”Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” Alison HarlowAmber KAnna Franklin /  Anodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey  / Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite Austin Osman SpareBiddy EarlyBridget ClearyCarl Llewellyn WeschckeCecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey LelandCharles Walton /  Christina Oakley Harrington /  Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) /   Dion FortuneDolores Aschroft-NowickiDorothy MorrisonDoreen ValienteEdward FitchEleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” /  Dr. John Dee and Edward KellyDr. Leo Louis Martello /  Eliphas LeviErnest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry /  Fiona Horne /  Friedrich von SpeeFrancis Barrett /  Gerald B. GardnerGavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gwydion PendderwenHans Holzer /  Helen DuncanHerman Slater "Horrible Herman" /  Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" MurrellJanet Farrar & Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne John George Hohman /  John GerardJohn Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJohannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von EckartshausenLaurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis Spence /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General”Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata /  Monique Wilson the “Queen of the WitchesMontague SummersNicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellersMrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-RavenheartOld Dorothy ClutterbuckOld George Pickingill /   Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsusPatricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip Emmons Isaac Bonewits Philip HeseltonRaymond BucklandReginald ScotRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /  Rudolf Steiner /  Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & DruidsSabrina - The Ink WitchScott CunninghamSelena FoxSilver Ravenwolf /  Sir Francis DashwoodSir James George FrazerS.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  StarhawkStewart FarrarSybil LeekTed AndrewsThe Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather /  Thomas AdyVera Chapman /  Victor Henry AndersonVivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna 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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