This time of the year in Johannesburg is delightful. With the sweltering heat subsiding into the crisp coolness of autumn, the air crackles with Witch magic. We have just experienced the major festival of Samhain in the Southern Hemisphere. This festival is arguably the festival that receives the most PR and attention of the modern Witchcraft and Pagan movement. It is understandable, as we as a modern culture have lost most of the spiritual and religious customs concerning Death and dying. There is of course the widely celebrated Halloween in the Northern Hemisphere, however it does not coincide with the Witch festival in April here down south.
I received a rather interesting email just before this year’s celebrations. The gentleman asked me whether the Derby Coven, and therefore Alexandrian witches no longer celebrate the Sabbats. This question apparently came about due to the fact that there are never any photographs of our celebrations and altars on social media outlets like Facebook or Instagram.
As aspects of the Craft seemed to become more open in the 1970’s and 80’s, a public exoteric form of modern Paganism developed, inspired by what was available in published sources. The Craft festival names and celebrations were adopted into this new movement. This culminated in a massive growth globally in what was to become the modern Pagan Witchcraft movement. You now find covens and groups from various traditions and movements all over the world that have Instagram accounts and Facebook pages on which they share their altars, photos from their events and , somewhat bizarrely to this writer, photographs taken during their rites. I realize that setting up and photographing of altars could be inspiring and beautiful to some. In our coven , they are certainly so, but our altars and ritual spaces are meant for the inspiration and preparation of consciousness of our own witches.
I would not dare to speak for Alexandrian witches as a whole, but what I can say is that most initiates I know, keep their altars and works private. You would therefore rarely, if ever, see photographs depicting our true rites. Do we celebrate and experience the Sabbats? Absolutely we do! All of them.
Every single festival carries a core mystery to be pierced, experienced and celebrated. Besides being utterly magical and spiritually inspiring, it will trigger realizations on many different levels for the Witch. They are also outright joyful, and so it should be.
There is also an old Craft law that states that no one shall know who the members of your Coven are. This could be argued to be only a remnant of the times of persecution. There might be more to it than that after all, but that I will leave as a post for another day.
Knowledge, Courage, Volition and Silence are the Pillars of the Temple. Each one is encountered and internalized on the path of the Initiate. Silence however, is one of the most important to learn and yet often one of the most eluding. Silence is might. It is the pillar of silence which transforms “secret” into what it truly should be in it’s higher aspect; sacred. That which is held in a state of dedication and consecration.
Now, it could be easily argued that Alex and Maxine Sanders permitted photographs to be taken of their rites. A Google search could easily lead to that conclusion, however this would be misleading . What is not commonly known, is that most, if not all of these rites were staged specifically for those photographs and films, and many of us carry on in this manner.
I enjoy seeing and adoring beauty, whether that be in a beautiful natural setting, a work of art, a piece of music, or for that matter, a beautifully prepared and devoted altar. We in Derby and many other Alexandrian witches just prefer to keep ours sacred and therefore- unpublished.