Archives For Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki

Today we continue our two part interview with renowned occultist, teacher and author Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. Last week, journalist Zora Burden spoke with Ashcroft-Nowicki about her childhood and influences, as well as the journey that led to the creation of the Servants of the Light (SOL). In part 2, Ashcroft-Nowicki speaks more specifically about her writing, her beliefs and practice, and her teachings. She offers suggestions for those people just beginning their own personal spiritual journey, and she shares personal anecdotes from her many years working with students.

[Courtesy SOL]

[Courtesy SOL]

Zora Burden: You’ve written a prolific amount of books on many subjects in the magical arts and spiritual development. Will you talk about some of them and the motivation for writing them?

Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki: Illuminations came about at a time when I thought my magical life and work was over. I tried to lift myself out of despair by writing a poem or prayer for each letter of the Hebrew Alphabet. In doing so, I discovered the beauty, magic, and power within them and the book grew from that. Thoughtforms was written with my dear friend Herbie Brennan. We were sitting in his front room one evening and talking about the power of thought forms and just for the hell of it began to put together a book synopsis. Halfway through Herbie said, “Ok we have a working plan here but I doubt if anyone will ever publish it.” Just for the hell of it we went upstairs to the office and sent it off to a publisher. Then laughed at what kind of dismissal we would get back. Twenty-four hours later we had an acceptance, which floored us. Herbie said, “Damn it, now we have to write the darned thing.” So we did. All the others come from ideas and questions I needed to find answers for!

ZB: Can you describe the symbolism and design of the SOL Tarot deck?

DA: That would take a book by itself. Just recently, going through the attic of my house, I found a box of the decks that I didn’t know I had but the booklet was not with them. They were, I think, sent when the Aquarian Press decided not to continue with them and sold me the remainders.

ZB: Will you talk about the creation of your Shakespearian Tarot and how you made correlations between the symbology of Shakespeare’s writing and Kabbalism? What other popular works of historical literature do you see referencing Kabbalism?

shakespearian tarotDA: I have always loved the theatre and trained for both drama and opera. But there came a time when I had to make a choice and a sacrifice. Shakespeare has always been a love on mine – the wording, the tone, the many shapes the words can be made to induce. I train students to use the voice as a magical tool.

The first card was the Lovers, a natural for Romeo and Juliet. It just grew from there. But it took a long time to match the quotations with the images. It was great fun and working with Jo Gill was a joy. She’s a very gifted artist. We have lost touch but I hope she is well and happy. The Tree of Life is within us all no matter who or what you are, so every book holds something of the Tree in its characters or its message.

ZB: Will you talk about the most important factors in studying and practicing Kabbalism?

DA: You either find the Qabbala within you or you don’t. It’s in everyone but only if you recognize it, can it work with power. Meditations and rituals used to be the way of teaching, now it is different. As I have already said, ritual and meditation is the way in, a beginning. After a while it becomes the way you exist and live your life. It creeps up on you. There is no eureka moment. You wake up one morning, and you and the Tree are one and the same thing. There is too much emphasis laid on ritual and ceremony. It’s great in its place; it brings people together with a single aim but it lives within the individual. Titles and degrees, and ostentation are not what it is about. Some of the most powerful people I know live quiet lives, teaching, training and living in their own Inner Light.

ZB: Will you explain for those who may not be familiar, how the major arcana of tarot is a guidebook to the Tree of Life and how the progression of the initiate through the paths is mapped out within the archetypes?

DA: No, I can’t explain because each person is different and that kind of teaching needs to be one on one to be good. I look on it as a book rather than pictures. [On] Archetypes: read Joseph Campbell, no one does it better than he.

ZB: What are the main topics you lectures on with regards to the occult? Where can people usually attend these classes or lectures?

DA: My workshops cover most traditions: basic magical training, angelic work, Pathworkings, subjects like The Hebrew Letters, The Elemental world, Qabbalah, tarot, fairy tales, magical psychology, Quantum Physics. You name it and I have probably done a workshop on it. I have, after all, been doing this since 1964. The SOL website always has my workshops and dates on it as well as those given by SOL supervisors. Between us, we probably give around 40 workshops a year.

ZB: In your international travels teaching the esoteric, which countries have you found to be the most interested and open to discussing and practicing this work? Have you traveled to any locations and felt geographic energies played an important role in enabling magical practices?

DA: My favorite places are Mexico and the USA. But Switzerland is also a favorite. Trinidad, Sweden, South America. Germany, and Greece are very special. I have actually been or worked in 28 countries. Each one has its own inner magic and special feel. Ley lines add power to a location if they go through it. These Inner Roads can be used in magical ways if one is trained to use them.

Between the Worlds 2015 [Photo Credit: C. Kenner]

Michael G. Smith and Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki at Between the Worlds 2015 [Photo Credit: C. Kenner]

ZB: What is your daily spiritual routine like, especially when you’re so busy with many speaking engagements and projects?

DA: I don’t have one. I don’t tie myself down to dates and times or specific tasks. My whole life, every day is part of what I do, just breathing is magic, thinking is magic. Ceremony is traditional and nice to do, but once you have the understanding of the Universe, you don’t really need it. It brings people together and that is good.

ZB: For those who are not members of Servants of the Light (SOL), what messages or advice can you give those seeking the truth and educating themselves in the magical arts?

DA: Find a school and take your time. Talk to those who have studied with them; don’t take the first one, not all schools suit everyone. Look at what their students are like. Do you want to be like them or not? I make a point of telling students: “What I’m telling you is from my own experience. That does not mean you have to agree with it. It doesn’t come written on two tablets of stone. It’s alright to disagree, I am still learning. I’ve just been around longer, which means I have had the time to make more mistakes!”

ZB: How does a mystery school function without validating one tradition over another and can it encompass all traditions? How does one find truth in a tradition or school and know it’s right for them?

DA: The Truth is in all traditions; they simply use it in different ways. I personally will not be labelled. I have worked with Wicca and Traditional English Craft, The Faerie Tradition, and QBL, Pure Hermetics, and Mysticism. I am also an ordained priest. Mr. Butler said, “It is only on earth, belief systems are divided, on the spiritual level they all lead to the Source.” We are basically QBL, this is used as a foundation for everything else.

ZB: What tools or external factors are most important for people working to cultivate spiritual progress and for magical potency?

DA: Cultivate curiosity, actively look around you and seek out information. You keep using that word spiritual; it comes in all sizes and colors. What is spiritual to me, may not be so to you, so how can I decide what is best for you. I work with anything and everything. Everything has a sense of self, small or large. Whatever comes to hand if it is useful, use, if it is not, then it may suit someone else

ZB: What are some typical questions you are asked during these lectures or lessons?

DA: Funny thing. I’m always complaining about this. You ask for questions and no one asks. Then, as soon as I get a cup of coffee in my hands or walk to the loo after three hours of sitting, they come up and ask questions. Examples:

Q) How long will it take me to be able to fight on the Astral? A) How long will it take you to get through that door and out of my workshop? Q) I’m being attacked astrally, how can I protect myself?  A) The only reason to be attacked is if you have something they want. At this stage, that is nothing. You don’t have a rare book, you don’t have a great secret, you are not an Ipsissmus, you are not worth attacking. It takes energy, power, time and know how to really attack people. Thinking you are being attacked is a cry for attention. Take a long hard look at yourself and find out why you want that attention. Q) Why do I have to write a diary? It’s boring. A) So you can remember and think back and learn from mistakes. We can only learn by two things: experience and making mistakes. By the way, if you get bored that easily don’t come to SOL. We don’t do boring.

Then there are the people who come in full regalia, sit in the front row and nod smugly at everything you say. I have a lot of fun with them! I always try to answer as honestly as I can.

ZB: Why do you feel some people are naturally drawn to this spiritual work? What advice can you give for those born gifted and have spiritual inclinations, to guide them on their path?

51L3YYwyywL._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_DA: Some people are born to paint, to sculpt, to create engines, to sing, to farm the land, others are born to think, wonder, invent, hope and strive for the unknown. Why should everyone be the same? There have always been those born to “see beyond” and who can bring back echoes of what they see. Not everyone has the ability to draw, paint, fix an engine write a novel. We need each other’s skills.

There have always been priests and priestesses, there always will be. If you are not one of them in this life, be the best you can be at what you do, and maybe next time round, who knows. If it is within you, it will show up sooner or later; no one can predict such a thing. If you are a novice, then wait. If your talent is true someone will turn up and guide you. Put out a wish for a guide and they will come. But if you want it for the wrong reasons, be prepared to pay a price. It’s not a cake walk, you will be expected to work hard and train your memory.

Read anything and everything. Learn night and day. Don’t do it for titles; do it for the love of the work. Advice? I still consider myself a student, there is always something to learn, so how can I advise. Someone came to me and showed me the way. If it is in you, someone will come.

ZB: For those who are born with clairsentience, is it possible to strengthen or heighten more than one of the clair senses in an individual?

DA: Yes. Some are more able and have multiple talents than others. Train until you reach your limit, then try and go further. If you have a talent for healing, teaching, writing, astrology, or tarot, then get a firm foundation on the basics of all the powers. Then find which is strongest and exercise it until it is as good as you can get it.

I came from a psychic family going back generations; I was born with a certain ability to contact, hold, and transcribe information. I also had a singing voice of some power, and an ability to use drama to convey emotion. I was allowed to train those gifts, then was told to give up using them in the way I had thought of doing and instead offer them to the Higher Levels for their use. I could have said no. My specialty is an ability to pass on information. I can use my voice as a tool to make things interesting without boring people to death. I also have the ability to hold a higher contact within myself for a period of time and learn from them what they need others to know. Basically I’m an old fashioned tape recorder; I play back to those I teach what the Higher Levels have given me.

ZB: Can you explain the importance of Pathworking? What are some of the basics of the lessons?

DA: Pathworking, or guided meditations, have been around for centuries, just not by that name. It encourages visualization and helps students to build their inner world. They are basic and grow in strength as the students grow. Without such exercises it would be much harder.

ZB: What are some of the ideal environments or tools needed for a student or practitioner to meditate in?

DA: A trained student should be able to meditate during a Rolling Stones concert! It’s not the place; it’s the skill used to go deep. Anyone at all can meditate in a quiet and beautiful area, it takes skill and dedication to do it at a railway station at rush hour. Listening to music can create images and thoughts; it is often chosen for that. But you should be able to meditate anywhere at all. If you need help, you are not trying!

ZB: What should an initiate expect in order to become skilled, or knowledgeable as an adept in regards to the amount of practice, work and years one puts into their learning?

DA: The same dedication you would put into becoming a doctor or an architect; it’s work, hard work and for a long time. Dedication is vital and I’m afraid I see very little of it around today. If it can’t be done or learned in a couple of weekend workshops, then it’s no good. There are those who rely on such people to give them a good living; those who will tell them how good they are and how powerful and change the earth.

You should give something. Ernest said, “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” So something should be offered in return. But always within their limited means. To some a teacher will give freely.

ZB: How important is the physicality of ritual in magical work in relation to internal work like introspection or meditation?

41gpsnjlAGL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_DA: Ritual is lovely; it lifts the spirit, the heart and the mind. It is a guide for those who as of yet, cannot do without its controlled power. Much later when you can control the power within and understand it, then you can dispense with ritual. But it is a tradition and will always be a useful and uplifting tool. Ritual has been part of human life for thousands of years. It has served us well, and still has a beauty, a power, and a meaning.

But, as once the chariot was the only means of transport, we now have cars and planes and we wouldn’t dream of going back to chariots. In the same way we are growing out of the use of ritual. It will go on for a long time yet because it does have a sense of fellowship and grace but that was when we were still somewhat within a hive mind. Now we are almost 98 % individuals and can do things for and by ourselves.

Know Thyself, we were told and it has taken 3,000 years to do it. Tradition has its place in history but we now have our eyes on the stars. As the stars are above, so we are their reflection below but slightly different.

ZB: Who do you feel are the ideal applicants to become an initiate of the SOL? What should they have in regards to approach, studies, skill levels etc.? How does one know they are ready to study within the SOL?

DA: Anyone with a desire to know more about themselves as a mind within a cleverly designed container (body). Anyone who doesn’t whine about having to do some work daily and write a diary. They should have self-discipline, dedication, and enough time to do the work. Don’t take it on unless you can give us 12 to 14 hours a week. This is not something to take up like a knitting group. It’s a university course in Life.

We ask less time than you would do at a college or university. We have an application form, fill it in and we will tell you if you are right for us. You would be surprised at what comes through the post.“When will I learn to call up demons?” or “How can I kill from a distance?” I am not joking. One gentleman wanted to know how to make a billion pounds so he could buy a football team and have it win every time.

ZB: What do you feel about those who attempt to conjure external ‘demonic’ forces as part of their magical practice?  Do you believe these exist literally as opposed to conducting shadow work?

DA: Yes, I believe evil can take a form. There is nothing in the universe that has only one side to it. Believe in good, you must believe in evil. Believe in angels, you must believe that evil can assume a form. The old Alchemists used to call them up. But what did they call? Usually some little vortex of power that found itself drawn into a triangle of manifestation looking like a bio-chemist’s nightmare. It must have looked down and thought: “What’s with this guy’s imagination!” No wonder these forces get mad and send them mad. I would have done the same!

It is always good to remember that ugliness and beastliness revolts, but evil housed in a beautiful form has a greater chance of entrapping you. Most of what was called up was elemental power and relatively harmless. It is stupidity rather than evil. They get what they deserve for misusing power.

ZB: What are the three most important tools a person must learn to acquire a full understanding of the esoteric? What would you say should be the real goal in the manifestations of higher consciousness, or self-realization?

DA: Discretion, Discrimination and Imagination. Also, the Practice of Inner Silence, without it you will not grow.  Anyone who enters this way of the mysteries, even for only a short time is enlightened by that brief time. We are all becoming enlightened little by little. Every new thing you learn is an enlightenment. Every time you pass on what you have learned, you enlighten that person. This makes ‘claiming enlightenment’ a bit silly. There is no prize for being enlightened and no shame in being simply an ordinary human being. Learn and pass it on, that is all we can do. Every time you get an idea you are enlightened; we are all and will remain students.

ZB: Aside from you own books, what other books do you recommend for study in the occult arts? How should students approach solitary practice before working within a group?

DA: There are thousands of books in print and only half of them will have something to offer. You can forget the ‘Nine ways to make a love potion’ or ‘You too can be a Channeler’, in actual fact you can’t. You have to have an inner audio talent. Shirley MacLaine notwithstanding, Joseph Campbell, Gareth Knight, Michio Kaku, Carl Sagan, John Michael Greer, Ivo Dominguez, Orion Foxwood. Anything by John and Caitlin Matthews. Remember that there are occult novels which contain teaching in a way that non-fiction books can’t reach, as with Katherine Kurtz’s, Lammas Night. There are many out there.

Read, read, and read.

ZB: Do you feel working within a group is necessary?

DA: A group has the advantage of someone to talk to and answer questions. The fellowship is a good way to concentrate. Solitary is sometimes the only way for those in isolated places. It’s harder but not impossible. I might think about a book on that.

ZB: How do you define real ‘magic’ and its purpose within the individual or within a group?

DA: Magic as I was taught, is the ability to change yourself from the inside to the outside. To create around and within you as much balance as is possible for you, at the stage you have reached. This change can happen suddenly and often shatters them when it does, then it rebuilds them. With a group, like a School or Order or Lodge, it usually begins to happen through the medium of the Group Mind. The power of change then begins to spread through the group, each one reacting according to their ability to perceive what is happening to them internally. Those who cannot or will not allow the change to happen, leave the group on one pretext or another.


ZB: What are some of the important factors that a school such as SOL offers in regards to learning and becoming an adept in the magical arts that they cannot learn on their own?

DA: Not everyone becomes an adept; it’s the titles thing again. You can become proficient in the Art. We offer a safe, graduated training, designed to bring you into a state of mind where you can recognize yourself as being whole and balanced. On your own you can go so far but without someone to point out strengths and weakness, you will always be at a certain risk.

ZB: How do the various Lodges of SOL differ and how would a student choose which is right for them to join?

DA: Each Lodge is headed by an initiate who chooses a patron under whom they will work. We allow a certain percentage of non-SOL people in a Lodge to add to the variety. Some work with Egyptian, others Greek, some esoteric Christian, and Celtic Craft. The Supervisor chooses the patron, and they govern their Lodges. They send in reports twice a year and advise me who seems to be right for initiation and what degree. I visit as many as I can each year. This is getting more difficult as we are spreading over the globe. At the moment I think we have students in 18 different countries.

When a student is well into the course work and seems dedicated we try to get them into a Lodge as close to their home as possible. In the UK people do not travel long distance as do the American students. Europeans try to make it when they can. Australia is difficult. We have few students there. They are a people more in touch with the outdoors than the inner way. But we do have a few good people. We direct students to a Lodge that has room for them and people of their own type

ZB: For those who may become frustrated or overwhelmed or even frightened by what they experience during their work and exercises, how do you encourage them to remain on the path?

DA: You wait and watch. Sometimes with more knowledge, they settle down and get it together. If not, you have to bite the bullet and tell them it is not right for them. Be honest, otherwise you are taking money under false pretenses. This work is not for everyone.

ZB: What are some important facts that you would like people to know about the SOL and yourself?

DA: We care about the people we train. If they are ill, or need a kind word or to answer a question, we do the best we can. Every student is like a part of my family and like a parent, I’ll raise hell if I have to. I’m not a push over, do not get on the wrong side of my Natal Chart, the one with Scorpio rising! Do well and I’ll acknowledge that and encourage you to do even better. But, don’t mess with my ‘kids’. I’ll fight for them.

ZB: How has the school evolved or the years? Have any aspects of the tradition changed?

DA: Of course it has changed, if it didn’t we would not be here after 50 years. Change and adaption is how humanity has always worked and grown stronger. Our rituals, initiations, supervisors, and workshops have all changed. The new course is quite unlike Ernest’s. We now have an administration section, which takes a lot of the work off me. We have a trained and chosen successor who will take over the reins eventually. I’m still learning myself and I have changed a lot.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak out. There will always be some who will disagree with me and that’s ok but I have faults and admit to them. But when the time comes to move on, I will have few regrets. I will have done the best. I wish I had the chance to sing more. But it was the price asked and I gave it willingly. But in my next life’s round, please can I be the spoilt daughter of an indulgent millionaire. Call it a holiday life!

ZB: Lastly, when do you think that society will realize that the magical arts and occult are actually science based? In the middle ages much of what we know was science today was thought of as witchcraft, so do you see society as ever becoming enlightened to this fact and accepting magical work as a form of science or physics?

DA: It’s already happening. Quantum Physics is the new word for Magic. It has always been about understanding the Laws of the Universe. In Ancient times humanity tried the understand and use them by ceremony and sacrifice; sometimes it works but not always. Now we know so much more and what would have been magic then, we now use every day without thinking. Another decade or two and what we know now will be old.

Michio Kaku in his book Hyperspace points out that it is no longer professional death to talk, write or lecture about things like Time Travel and the relation of God to the String Theory. A magician (I wish I could find a better word for ourselves) must have a basic understanding of physics to cope with what is to be found in Inner Space. The internal universe is even bigger than the universe outside.

This work is a privilege – treat it as such!

[Dolores Ashcroft-Nowiki is currently touring on the East Coast of the United States and in the United Kingdom. Her appearances and class schedule are listed on the Servants of the Light website.]

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This column was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth.  

[Guest journalist Zora Burden joins us to share part one of a two part extensive interview with renowned occultist Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. Burden is a poet, and a journalist for the San Francisco Herald. She has written two books, “Women of the Underground,” featuring female musicians and artists. She also has five books of poetry on the themes of esoterica and surrealism available exclusively at City Lights Bookstore. In all her work, Burden focuses on feminism, radical outcasts, surrealist art, social activism, and the esoteric.]

Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, is a British occultist, author, third generation psychic and esoteric practitioner with focus on Hermetic Qabalism. Since 1978, she has been the Director of Studies for the Servants of the Light School of Occult Science in the Western Mysteries TraditionAs SOL’s director, Dolores acts as consultant for the school, teaching workshops, lectures and seminars internationally. She has worked as a Cosmic Mediator along with Walter Ernest Butler, and is a third degree adept.

Dolores teaches on many occult subjects, and she has written 17 books on occultism and the esoteric, along with designing the SOL Tarot Deck with Jo Gill and Anthony Clark, and the Shakespearean Tarot with Paul Hardy. Dolores is most known for her teaching of Pathworking in the study of Hermetic Qabalah. She is currently touring the UK and the US teaching many workshops and giving lectures during the spring and summer 2016. Her tour starts April 2 with a class called  Ritual Magic Three held in London and then continues on from there. She comes from a long line of trained occultists and psychics with both her parents being third degree initiates. Ashcroft-Nowicki currently lives in the Channel Island of Jersey with her husband Michael.

Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki [Courtesy SOL]

Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki [Courtesy SOL]

Zora Burden: What was your childhood and upbringing like? Who influenced you during your formative years in regards to your interest in the esoteric or magical arts and helped shape the person you are today?

Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki: Wonderful childhood. My father had a fantastic mind and, although he never went to a university, he knew more than many who did. He kept up with science, spiritual, and modern inventions all the time and encouraged me to do so. He taught me to read long before I went to school. He was a materializing Medium, but it affected his health, and he withdrew from that area. But his seership was incredible. My mother was quiet and gentle and was a perfect match for him.

Her mother, however, was willful and self-indulgent, and I disliked her very much. My father’s mother had Romany blood and was as psychic as they come. She and I were much alike and often clashed, but I loved her. She had a lovely singing voice and could play many instruments. She was an extraordinary woman and had, shall we say, an interesting past. A witch to her fingertips. We left to avoid the German invasion of the Islands and went to live on the Wirral Peninsula in the UK. Within a week she had found the local ‘coven’ and was one of those who joined forces 2/3rds a week to make a circle and build the defenses around Britain.

My grandfather was a quiet man who let things happen around him. He just ambled through life. I was brought up to believe that everyone had the right to believe as they felt fit, and to never to dismiss another’s religion. My dad would say, “You never know, if it could be the right one,” and laugh. I asked questions all the time and most were answered. If he didn’t know, my dad would find out. My parents ran a weekly meeting with friends of similar interests, and I would creep out of bed and hide behind the curtains to listen.  After many times of finding me asleep there, they simply tucked me up on the sofa and let me listen. I was allowed to read whatever I wanted.

I was solitary and didn’t like other children; they were dull and uninteresting to me. I spent summer holidays searching the big atlas and planning world tours. I was always top in geography. I told my dad I would travel all over the world. He said it would take a lot of money. I made cruise cabins from shoe boxes and learned about other countries, their weather, what they made, their language and dressed my little dolls for their cruise. It took all summer, so we never set sail. I firmly believe I was creating a magic life in doing this.

I have since travelled to almost every country I planned as a child but I still don’t have any money!

I had a night visitor who used to come and talk to me, and sometimes he would take me with him and show me a lovely place with a very blue sea. It never dawned on me to ask him why he had goat feet and little horns. But he taught me a lot about Greece and showed me how beautiful his ancient world had been. It never occurred to me that others didn’t see him. I had one friend Dorothy Deakin, she had spina bifida and couldn’t walk. We used to talk about what we would like to be when we grew up. I wanted to be a singer; she wanted to be a teacher, but I told her she would be an angel. She died just before the war.

Of all the people in my childhood it was my father, my grandmother, a friend of my father’s named Robin, and one of my teachers Lester Robbillard, who influenced me most. I used to write stories for the children at school during the war. You couldn’t get new books, so I wrote stories for the younger ones and the teachers used them. Mr Robbillard told me then I would be a writer but then all I wanted was to be an actress.

ZB: When I had asked about your first childhood otherworldly experience that caused you to believe in these other realms, you had said there was a 600-year-old gnome living in an old granite wall that talked to you daily. Will you give more detail about this and mention any other magical beings you had encountered?

DA: On my way to school, I passed a beautiful old granite wall, and one day I saw a face in it and stopped to say hello. It disappeared but I saw it again, often. Finally, I stopped and spoke to it. It took a long time but eventually we became friends. I called him Christopher. We had a signal, I would clap my hand three times then place my open had on that stone and turn it. Then he would pop his head out. I was caught by a teacher who told my parents to take me to a special doctor. He was Welsh! … We had a long talk and shared lots of things, and he said [to the head teacher] I was an overly imaginative child and would grow out of it. To me, he explained that I had to be careful and not let others know about it. 

An old lady had lived in the cottage before we had it, her fiancé had died in the Boer War and she never married. She died just before we took on the cottage and her room was my bedroom. She came and told me stories some nights, right up to the war times.

© Copyright Martin Bodman

© Copyright Martin Bodman

ZB: What are your thoughts on the Faerie realm or other mystical creatures and dimensions? How would you define them to those unfamiliar?

DA: You must be psychic. I believe that the inner universe within each one of us is full of these entities that we create in order not to feel lonely, just sitting in our solitary universe. When Peter Pan says, “Do you believe in Fairies, if you don’t somewhere a Fairy will die.”  That is quite true. They and all such “life forms” live in our personal universe, and they look to us for their existence. I could be wrong but I rather like the idea that I have Fairyland within me. I love them and the Elementals, and to me they are very real. I hold long conversations with them.

ZB: What were some of your first experiences with ritual practices growing up?

DA: The first ritual was doing those travels with my dolls. I didn’t know what ritual was. My grandmother taught me simple spells, protection spells, simple healing spells for cuts and bruises, but most of the time she said I was to be young for as long as I could, there was plenty of time.

ZB: Will you talk about meeting your husband and how having a partner in regards to magical or spiritual work affected your own development?

DA: The only sport apart from swimming that I liked was fencing. I love knives and blades. I went to classes and became quite proficient. When I went to live in London, I joined a fencing club run by a man who was full of himself. He never asked me if I could fence, he just told this guy to teach me the rudiments and went off. For 30 minutes I was told how to hold a blade, how to stand, how to advance and retreat. Then my teacher said let’s try a few strikes. Now I’m left handed, but I actually can fight with both hands, and I was cross. We ended up having a full on bout, and I took him across the Planche. He ended up with a gash on his arm because he thought he didn’t need to wear a defense jacket! He sat there bleeding and said, “You are a dangerous woman, I think I’ll marry you.” He did.

We found out we both had a love of the spiritual side of things, and I firmly believe we were brought together for a purpose, that purpose was the [Servants of the Light] school. Mike is like a rock to me. He is always there, supporting and upholding. We have different kinds of psychism, but they match.

ZB: What interested you in the Fraternity of the Inner Light as compared to other esoteric mystery schools? What prompted you to leave this organization and found the Servants of the Light?

DA: I was married and had two children; we were back in (Bailiwick of) Jersey. My Mother wanted a set of tarot cards and gave me an address to go to when I was in London visiting my in-laws. It was The Aquarian Press. While she was getting the deck, I looked at some books for sale and was interested in a grimoire. The man took it off me and said, “That’s not the kind of book for you, have this one,” and gave me Magic, Its Ritual Power, and Purpose by W. E. Butler.

I read it on the way home and within two weeks, Mike and I had enrolled. It was as if I had been waiting for just that moment. I felt a link with the author. We asked if he could be our teacher but were told, “No, the link is too strong, only when you have completed the course can you meet.” Ernest was there when we were initiated; we became strong friends and visited with him very often. He asked us to be supervisors on his new course, and I asked permission from the IL Warden. I was told we had to leave. I asked why we couldn’t do both. He said, “Because that is where you need to be, besides if you stay here you will be after my job.” I thought he was joking.

ZB: Will you talk about what it was like working with Walter Ernest Butler?  

W.E. Butler [Courtesy SOL]

W.E. Butler [Courtesy SOL]

DA: Ernest was the nearest to a Hobbit I will ever see: small, light in build (I don’t know about the hairy toes) with twinkling eyes and an impish smile. Gentle, unless you really angered him, then you had a small Doberman on your tail. But [he was] one of the sincerest and genuine human beings I have ever known. It seemed we picked up a friendship of teacher and student from where it left off, lives ago. I would go over to Southampton with a list of questions that I never really asked but when I got back home, I had the answers.

Small he may have been in body, but his mind spanned time and space. A gifted psychic and auric mediator. Nobody was more surprised than I was when I developed the ability to mediate. It came suddenly and without warning. Ernest however seemed very excited and within a few hours of it happening told me I would be the next Director of Studies after him. Yeah, like that was going to happen! I said no for a couple of months. Then the contact took things into his own hands and made it clear I had no options. That was it, like it or not, I had been born for this and would I please stop arguing.

ZB: Will you explain what a Cosmic Mediator is for those who may not be familiar?

DA:There are levels in all occult training. The mediums prevalent in the ‘30s, ‘40s are now almost nonexistent. Humanity has grown out of that phase. Psychism is something most people have and don’t know it, or laugh it off. A trained psychic is someone who is able to sense the presence of other life forms who may or may not offer a physical form in order to communicate. They can receive and send like a two-way radio, but there are limits. They need to be trained to get the best results.

Automatic writers are similar but can allow another being to use their hands. Seers can see, can direct, but not always contact, though there are some gifted seers who can. Aural psychics can hear but not always see … Mediators are a combination of throwbacks and throw forwards. It was a skill well known 3 to 4,000 years ago, but now, with training and the new knowledge of quantum physics they can be more accurate. Some can and do go far beyond this solar system.

Mediators work on many levels. Basically they team up with spiritual beings and become their PAs between the inner world and ours. It is not something you can go out and buy like a new pair of shoes; it is not something you can train someone to be. You either have the ability to deal with an entity or you don’t. Nor do you get to choose. They choose you and make an approach if you agree and you must agree; they cannot force you. However, if you do not come up to scratch or if you are at fault, they will leave and it’s permanent.

A mediator can on occasion carry an entity (their essence) for another person and hand them over. It has happened. A Mediator, once chosen, becomes aware of their buddy or entity gradually and it takes time to get to know each other, like any relationship. Sometimes it is an occasional thing. If the Mediator is new, very young, unsure, then it may only contact at specific times and maybe only in times of danger or special need. The next level is when the entity asks to in-dwell. That means exist in, with, and by their host. This is not as bad as it sounds. They may favor certain areas in which to leave a particle of their beingness. Such particles are holographic. Cosmic mediators can get landed with multiples, though not all at once. But they can switch if another entity has need of them. I am at present in the middle of writing a book on Mediation and hope to have it completed by the end of the year. The working title, which almost certainly will change, is Cosmic Twins.

ZB: What were some of the most important contributions Walter Ernest Butler had in the formation of the SOL and what wisdom of his left the most impact on you personally?

DA: The SOL was Ernest’s baby. It began as The Helios course and was the first of its kind. The first six lessons of the course were written by Gareth Knight, for personal reasons he handed it over to Ernest who completed the course. In the early ‘70s the copyright was bought from Helios and within a few months it became The SOL. He was the instigator and the thrust behind it all. He poured himself and his knowledge into it. Mike, Olive Ashcroft (no relation) Tom Oloman, Mariton Geikie and myself hung on to his coattails and became supervisors.  

There comes a time when magical ritual, ceremony, and similar practices cease to be used, or even required. The work goes inward, upward, and outward. We did little in the way of ceremony with Ernest. Mostly it was done on the higher levels.


ZB: Can you describe how the formation of the Servants of the Light came about, including your role?

DA: Ernest’s course was written for and as The Helios Course, but it became too much for John and Mary Hall to cope with. They still run the book service. So Ernest took it over and was inspired to create a course that stood on its own. In 1972, it was legalized as the SOL. Mike and I are the only ones left now. I am the Director of Studies, Ernest’s title, which he passed on to me when I made the contact with his [contact]. I have just completed a 50 lesson course, as Ernest predicted I would, and it is now online for applicants. It is different, more up to date, more into the psychological and scientific aspects of magic. Delving into Quantum Physics at my age was quite a task but it’s fascinating.

ZB: Will you talk about what the experience of being in contact as a Mediator was like for you the first time?

DA: I hold the contact for the SOL. I didn’t ask for it, when it came I spent several weeks trying to get rid of it! I pointed out that I had nothing to teach, being new. I was told that all I had to do was open my mouth. He would do the teaching until such time as I did have something to teach.

I have seen and interacted with beings from other levels most of my life. What was it like? There are three levels:  the Mind touch, which 90% of students experience at some time or another; the Overshadowing, which is stronger and generally stays in close proximity to its chosen contacts and affects around 40%; and the Indwelling, which is permanent until the death of the Host. Such a contact may indwell several human beings at the same time since every particle of their subtle body is holographic and contains the whole teacher. Some prefer polarity and seek a compatible host from the opposite sex. Not that they have a sex, it is a mental adherence to a male or female essence. This is not a good description, but then we do not have the terminology to explain certain aspects. Others have no preference. You give up your privacy entirely. You are not your own person, but one of two. It is a symbolic thing.

ZB: What are some of the more profound psychic experiences that you’ve had over your lifetime? How do you explain psychic awareness and abilities to those who don’t believe?

DA: When I was five and it was my birthday, I went to bed but could not sleep. Someone or something was calling my name. I got up and looked through the window, it was almost a full moon. I took off my nightdress and went into the garden and danced. I couldn’t quite see who or what I was dancing with but they were lovely. Then I went back to bed.

During the war I was very homesick for my island and one night decided to visit it. I was thirteen. I mind travelled across the sea and went to our cottage. I sat on the wide window ledge looking into the moonlit garden. I heard a scream and turned to see a woman running out of the room. I was whipped back into my body. When eventually we returned, we had a visit from the people who had lived there while we were away. The woman told me she had seen me sitting by the window and was badly frightened by it.

During an air-raid, bombing was bad that night. I was twelve, sitting with my head in the mother’s lap and very frightened as the bombs were getting close. Suddenly I was not there anymore. I was in a place with high snowy mountains with odd people sitting around a fire dressed in deep red robes. They made a place for me to sit with them in silence, no bombs. One of the mountains had a strange shape. I wanted to stay but it was explained to me that I had to go back, but if I was really scared I would be welcomed back. The man had a very calm face.

Ernest told me that mountain was sacred Kailas, and there was a special monastery there. Years later I attended a concert in London; a friend was making his debut as a conductor. When the lights went up, sitting next to me was the same man in the same robes. He had not aged. We talked for a long while after, and he told me many things that helped me later.

There was the time, standing at the Altar in the Inner Light temple as I made my unreserved dedication that I felt Dion Fortune beside me. Also, the day the Indweller made the first approach and then two months later when I accepted it. Now at 87, I can look back and see many occasions when such things happened, but I am now writing my biography and will deal with them more fully then.

Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki with donated Dion Fortune paintings.

Ashcroft-Nowicki donated Dion Fortune paintings to New Alexandrian Library 2011 [Courtesy Photo]

ZB: What do you feel were some of the most important teachings of Dion Fortune? What resonated most with you in regards to her teachings?

DA: I liked her no nonsense approach to ‘magic’. She did not suffer fools gladly. She gave credence to the ancient ways and what can still be used. We share the same ray: Green. It’s the Creative Power Ray and can run you ragged. We need Blue rays to keep our feet on the ground. Dion Fortune had Loveday; I have Michael. Ernest was mostly Violet or The Mystic Ray. The SOL was founded on the Violet, then taken into the outer world by the Green. The next Director of Studies, Dr. Steven Critchley, is Blue ray. But he was recently ordained in the Liberal Catholic Church and so, like Ernest, has the touch of Violet.

ZB: Of all those you’ve worked with in the circles of these esoteric schools, who else was influential on your work? What are some of the most memorable or significant teachings or words of wisdom people have imparted to you over the years?

DA: How much time do you have? I learn from every lecture and workshop I do. There is always someone, beginners and Initiates, who can stun me with something that has been lying in front of me, and I didn’t see it. You can learn from anyone if you are actively looking for wisdom. Individuals who do stand out: Ernest, of course; Gareth Knight, someone who taught very valuable lessons; and Herbie Brennan, Christine Campbell, Margaret Lumley Brown, Lord Orion, Ivo Dominguez, and Michael Smith (both of Seelie Court in Delaware).  And, Anna Branche (Shakmah Winddrum), with whom I went through a blood ceremony; I’m proud of that little drop of African blood running around my veins. And, Carrie Brenna in Denver; Peter Larkworthy, who guided me through my Wiccan levels; and the Elders of The Village who taught me what The Craft really was.

I am, if you like, a cauldron of knowledge bequeathed to me by every person I have ever known. Starting with my parents … Ernest taught us to pass on what we learned so it would be shared among many, not to keep it hidden and eventually forgotten. This is my chance to say to all those who have touched my life Thank you, you have given me more than you will ever know, and I will pass it on.

[Next Saturday we will feature part 2 of the interview with Ashcroft-Nowkicki, who will discuss, in depth, her work and travels, her writing, the teachings of SOL and her recommendations for the student.]

btw2015logo-tshirt-3_med-2HUNT VALLEY, MARYLAND –When at any single Pagan conference with a robust lineup of workshops, panels, and rituals, a participant might find it difficult to choose what to attend and what to pass on. When two conferences join forces, those decisions become, at very least, four times as difficult to make. Such was the experience for 3-400 people who attended the combined Sacred Space and Between the Worlds conference in Maryland this past weekend.

These two events became one this year through a combination of cooperation and astrology. Sacred Space is an annual conference which is held around this time. Between the Worlds — not to be confused with an identically-named Midwest spiritual event — is scheduled astrologically, and like Sacred Space, takes place on the mid-Atlantic seaboard. This year, the stars aligned so that the two conferences would be in competition for attendees, speakers, and even organizers, as they have long had at least one board member in common. Instead of cannibalizing resources, the decision was made to combine the two into one whopper of an experience.

Between the Worlds won’t happen again until 2020, and it’s unlikely to ever overlap with Sacred Space again. The events have some common elements, which made the mashup manageable. Both have highly selective processes for choosing teachers, and require the content to be intermediate to advanced. Between the Worlds has handpicked teachers, while Sacred Space combines invited headliners with a proposal process designed to highlight local talent for a wider audience.

A harsh winter storm delayed many arrivals on Thursday. However, with only a few minor scheduling adjustments, the conference kept humming along. Friday and Saturday, the two full days, started with a plenary session during which a panel discussed a single topic before the bulk of the attendees. Friday’s topic was “alliances with the spirit world.” On Saturday a different panel discussed the nurturing spiritual communities.

Each panel was nearly two hours long, with a combination of debate, insight, and wit that highlighted the different perspectives of the panelists. Listening to Archdruid Kirk Thomas and respected author Diana Paxson debate why Odin seems intent on recruiting followers captured the Friday audience’s attention. Is he gathering fighters for Ragnarok, or trying to forestall it?

Ivo Dominguez, Jr, Michael Smith, and James Welch at the gala

The next morning’s discussion on community was equally as engaging. Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki explained that for all the dysfunction in American Pagan communities, they are far more evolved than what she is familiar with in England, where, “we Brits keep a stiff upper lip,” and don’t see much value in community at all. After identifying herself as the oldest person there, Ashcroft-Nowicki said, “I’m here to learn.”

Just as the days began with a single big session, they ended with the same, but those endings couldn’t have been more different. According to Sacred Space organizer Gwendolyn Reece, both Friday’s main ritual and Saturday’s gala were largely Between the Worlds in origin. Sacred Space does not have a large, main ritual at all, and of the gala, she remarked, “Between the Worlds does that better,” in part, because it costs extra to attend, allowing for live entertainment and plenty of food.

The entertainment came in the form of Tuatha Dea, a band that set the tone by musically calling the quarters and raising the energy in the room to a pitch that was joyous, but not so intense as to be overwhelming. In addition to a deep book of original and lively tunes, this band was able to perform everything from “Whiskey in the Jar” to “White Rabbit” with panache and flair. Their work complemented a silent auction to benefit the New Alexandrian Library, which included an astounding variety of items ranging from original art to gift baskets themed around popular Pagan holidays to ritual jewelry of exquisite beauty.

The main ritual, held Friday night, was a very different kind of energy; one that highlighted the strengths of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. Attendees were encouraged to participate in a preparatory class, during which chants were taught and the layout of the ritual was explained through guided meditation.

The ritual itself began on time, characteristic of an organizational decision to reject “Pagan standard time” out of hand, with the doors being sealed against latecomers. The theme was one of personal transformation as expressed by the “Witch’s Pyramid.” It was built on the astrological significance of the event, which was scheduled during the seventh of a rare series of Pluto-Uranus squares that represent the deep transformation of Pluto coming together with the explosive change represented by Uranus. While much time was spent laying those foundations, when the energy did start flowing, the call to move beyond one’s comfort zone and act for change in the world was unmistakable. By the time the seals upon the ritual gates were opened, this energy could be seen burning in many an eye.

Altars at Sacred Space.

Altars at Sacred Space.

But the choices beyond those big sessions are always difficult. Preparing for possession or oracular work with Diana Paxson? The sorcerer’s tongue or journeying to the phosphorous grove with Christopher Penczak? Deepening understanding of the witch’s pyramid with Ashcroft-Nowicki, or Ivo Dominguez, Jr?

Monika Lonely Coyote tackled the difficult question of differentiating mental illness and spiritual experience in one session, and how to act as a psychopomp for a dying individual in another. There were classes on hexes, breaking curses, alchemy of breath and alchemy of sex. Kirk Thomas offered a class on sacred gifts, which discussed reciprocity with the gods and its relationship to hospitality in ancient cultures ranging from the Greek to the Irish. Byron Ballard’s “Hillfolks Hoodoo” couldn’t have been more different than T. Thorn Coyle’s idea of “Practical Magic.”  However, each teacher brought deep wisdom and displayed a mastery of the craft. Dorothy Morrison offered a class on money magic that was both practical and earthy. In short, when all the choices are beyond “Grounding 101,” every decision is a difficult one to make, an opportunity cost by which one piece of knowledge is gained, and another left behind.

In that way, this idea is similar to a point that Morrison made about magic, and why she does not include “an it harm none” in her spells. She noted that all magic comes at a price.

“If you work a spell to get a job interview, someone else’s resume fell into the trash,” Morrison said. Requiring that a spell harm no one takes away its power, she observed; better to understand that no magic is without consequence. Or, as Coyle put it at one point, “You have to own it.” That’s the kind of lesson taught at this conference: very little in the world is black and white, and the burden of the adept who walks in sacred space is to take responsibility for the many gradations between the worlds.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

T. Thorn Coyle has issued an appeal to help raise money for the American Magic Umbanda House of Oakland, to help rebuild their sacred Lubisha, destroyed last year in a devastating fire. Thanks to generous donations, including one from Thorn’s Solar Cross Temple, they’ve already reached their modest goal of $450. However, I think they could use a cushion, don’t you? Any money above the goal will be used towards House related expenses, including their famous Pomba Gira ritual at PantheaCon, so let’s help out. “May the sound of drumming rise.”

In other fundraising news, Datura Press, a small esoteric publisher that publishes the work of Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, Gareth Knight,  Alan Richardson, and W.E. Butler, is in the midst of a campaign to buy advertising and discounted copies of their own titles so they can expand and make a better profit. Owner-editor Debbie Chapnick says that, quote, “the company is at a crossroads. People want these books. I have been contacted by distributors and bookshops from all over the world. All I need to really get this going is to have enough books in stock to fill the need.” The goal is $10,000, with 12 days left to go.  Any money raised over the goal will be donated to the New Alexandrian Library Project.

Humanist-officiated weddings are on-track to receive full legal status in Ireland, a classification that only Health Service Executive registrars and members of religious bodies previously received. While Pagan Federation Ireland has permission to legally marry couples in Ireland under the Civil Registration Act of 2004, the new changes could allow any “philosophical and nonconfessional body” to also perform legally binding ceremonies. Starting in 2007, Ireland allowed State-recognized weddings in the venue of the couple’s choice, instead of having to hold two ceremonies.

A teenager in Britain was convicted of religiously harassing a McDonald’s employee who is Pagan. The youth repeatedly returned over a period of two months to engage in verbal abuse, despite being told to stop by the employee and management. Barrister Laura Austin, who mitigated on behalf of the teen, said he “did not realise paganism was a recognised religion,” and that this was “this is the first case of its kind,” so far as she knew. The teen was sentenced to community service, and a restraining order was issued.

The 2010 U.S. Religion Census, released this week by the Association of Religion Data Archives, has some interesting data for those who are following the shape of (non-Christian) religion in America. While the data is skewed towards congregational models, it did show that “Buddhist congregations were reported in all 50 states, and Hindu houses of worship in 49 states.” All together, “the number of non-Christian congregations – synagogues, mosques, temples and other religious centers – increased by nearly a third, from 8,795 in the 2000 study to 11,572 in the 2010 census.” Meanwhile, Mainline Protestants “cratered,” Catholic numbers decreased overall (with a growing disconnect between “active” and non-active adherents), and non-denominational Christian houses of worship exploded.

Oh, did I miss the National Day of Prayer this year? Maybe because it’s almost exclusively focused on “Judeo-Christian” modes of worship and conceptions of deity. As CNN Belief Blog contributor Stephen Prothero put it, “how to pray as a nation when some believers affirm more than one God and some affirm fewer?”

Out & About Newspaper in Tennessee profiles author Christopher Penczak in advance of his visit to the fifteenth annual Pagan Unity Festival. Quote: “I think of witchcraft, rather than just Wicca, as a vocation and tradition that springs up all around the world, not in any one culture, there is a mystical, healing, cunning tradition in most cultures. The inner experience of the mysteries is the same, and I like the hunt for all wisdom around those mysteries.”

SF Weekly looks at David Talbot’s upcoming book “Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love,” which charts the shifts in San Francisco’s culture and politics between 1967 – 1982. Author, actor activist, and former Digger Peter Coyote is quoted as saying “I blame Mick Jagger for f***ing with black magic,” when asked about the disaster that was Altamont. Sounds like an interesting read.

It looks like the recent attention paid to infamous Nigerian Christian leader Helen Ukpabio may have had an effect. It seems the witch-hunter canceled her March trip to Texas, and a scheduled May visit as well. Ukpabio claims the the cancellations were due to death threats from Stepping Stones Nigeria, a charity that aids children accused of witchcraft, and is highly critical of her. Blogger Richard Bartholomew is highly skeptical of these claims, pointing out that Ukpabio’s church has been slandering that organization for some time now.

In a final note, I’d like to recognize Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who passed away yesterday after a years-long battle with cancer. Yauch was an adherent of Tibetan Buddhism, famously commemorated in the song “Bodhisattva Vow,” and worked for the Tibetan independence movement. However, for most members of Generation X, the Beastie Boys were a game-changing Hip Hop group that shook off their earlier party-boy lunk-headed image to release amazing albums like “Paul’s Boutique,” “Check Your Head,” and “Ill Communication.” Praised as “revolutionary MCs” by Chuck D, the Beasties helped define what Hip Hop would become, and oversaw its entrance into the mainstream. My consolation in this tragedy is that MCA has left behind a lot of awesome music, and that he’s now a Hip Hop Bodhisattva watching over all those who suffer.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.

The New Alexandrian Library, overseen by the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, is a project that hopes to create “a library worthy of its namesake” focused on esoteric knowledge, mystical and the spiritual writings from many traditions, and the “history of our magickal communities.” Based in Delaware, the NAL broke ground earlier this year on the domed buildings that will house their growing collection. Last week, the library was gifted with four paintings created by the legendary 20th century British occultist Dion Fortune, author of such works as “Psychic Self-Defense”“Mystical Qabalah”, and “The Sea Priestess”.

Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki with donated Dion Fortune paintings.

“This previous weekend Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki gifted the NAL with paintings of the four Archangels painted by Dion Fortune that were used in Dion’s first ritual room and in Dolores’ first ritual room. We are very grateful.”

The paintings were donated by Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki, director of Servants Of the Light, a Hermetic order descended from Fortune’s Society of the Inner Light, and herself a widely regarded author and occultist. Caroline Kenner, a supporter of the New Alexandrian Library, said she was “deeply inspired” by the artworks, and that they will be “appreciated in perpetuity by people who understand their power.” The gift was made at a recent fundraiser on behalf of the library that featured Ashcroft-Nowicki as a speaker.

This is a high-profile gift for a library project that is still in its early stages, one that no doubt reflects well on its governing board. For ongoing updates on the New Alexandrian Library check out their Facebook page.