Archives For John Matthews

logo1Over the week, there have been online rumblings that the American Council of Witches is trying, once again, to form. A Facebook page was opened on Sept. 11 and has remained fairly quiet until the past two months. And, it wasn’t until two weeks ago that the page began to receive significant attention, both for and against the council.

The American Council of Witches (ACOW) was originally created in 1973 by an eclectic group of practitioners, many of whom are no longer living. However, as we reported last year, that group, which “convened in Minneapolis, Minnesota, disbanded shortly after, allegedly due to internal divisions.” Then in 2011, a group of people tried to resurrect ACOW but, once again, it folded after “questions were raised about [its] goals, structure, and secrecy.” Then again, in early 2015, a new group of people tried unsuccessfully to launch the council. It ultimately folded due to similar concerns to those posed in 2011.

Since late March, there has been increased traffic to the new ACOW page, which “council members” claim is all that exists at this point. While there are many people who do appear to be eager to join, there are just as many asking the same questions as before, such as, “Who are you?” and, “What are your goals?” In addition, concerns have been raised regarding the thirteen beliefs, originally listed in September. Many of the recent complaints and questions have since been deleted from the page. However, new concerns continue to appear daily, including some people suggesting that this new launch is simply an internet ruse or what has been called “a trolling.”

The Wild Hunt did receive an email from a reported member of the new group. He said, “I have tried to help this new Council and they did not want to take any of my ideas.” He continued on saying that he’d like to clarify the situation before “mistakes are made.”  We have not yet received a second response to our questions and will update the story as needed.

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downloadBBC Radio 4: The World Tonight will be featuring a talk with Doreen Valiente Foundation trustee Ashley Mortimer about the new “Where Witchcraft Lives” exhibition currently open at Preston Manor in Brighton. According to Mortimer, “[The BBC] visited the exhibition yesterday, praised it highly and asked some excellent questions about it – just the sort of thoughts and questions we hoped it would stimulate for people with no knowledge of Paganism when they visit.”

The radio broadcast will also reportedly feature some of Doreen Valiente’s own words as well as an interview with venue officer Paula Rightson. Preston Manor is considered one of “Britain’s spookiest historic houses.” Rightson explained, “Preston Manor has been chosen to display this collection because it’s so compatible with the interests of the last private owner […] [They] were fascinated by Sussex history, archaeology and folklore.” That included the supernatural and the occult. According to Rightson, Valiente herself was very well aware of the owners’ interests and referred to it within her own research and writing.

The BBC Radio 4 will air the interview at 22:00 GMT, after which it will be available for streaming. In addition, Mortimer will be interviewed by by a BBC World program. The air date has not yet been announced.

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Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

With Earth Day only eleven days away, the organizers behind A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment have launched a new effort to increase the number of signatures on the online document.”Help us get 10,000 signatures by Earth Day 2016!”

The site reads, “Pagans can aid in the repair of our environment by teaching how we are part of life on Earth, sharing rituals and ceremonies that foster bonds between ourselves and the rest of the web of life, and instilling a sense of responsibility for how we interact with the ecosystem — all this creating cultures that can sustain our human society today and for generations to come.”

The idea for this community statement was born in the summer 2014, after Covenant of the Goddess released its own environmental statement. That summer, blogger John Halstead began bringing interested people together to craft this statement to reflect a diversity of Pagan thought. The large groups of participants worked together through the following months to write and finalize the document. Then, on Earth Day 2015, it was launched for signatures.

Since that time, the statement has garnered 7,983 signatures from individual people heralding from 80 different countries and has been translated into 16 different languages. In addition, twenty-four Pagan and Heathen organizations from around the world have officially signed the document. Organizers wrote, “As signatories, we commit to use our abilities and resources to promote policies and practices that foster the changes that our world so urgently needs.” They are now looking for increased support in order to reach the goal of 10,000 signatures. They write, “Add your voice to our call to protect all life in this historic moment by signing the statement.” 

In Other News

    • Denton CUUPS announced that it has donated $260 to the creation of the First Pagan Temple in Texas. As we previously reported, Chris Godwin and the local HearthStone Grove ADF launched a fundraising campaign to purchase the land needed to create a physical space for Pagans in their area. HearthStone’s vision and history are detailed on the fundraiser page. Denton CUUPS, which is also located in Texas, understands the importance of a dedicated gathering space. The organization ran into arson problems at its own ritual space in December 2015. Regarding HearthStone’s efforts, Denton CUUPS said, “We encourage others to contribute as they’re able.”
    • Artist Helga Hedgewalker’s work was chose as April’s Artist of the Month at Blick’s in Roseville, Minnesota. Hedgewalker is a Gardnerian high priestess and Witch “with decades of professional experience in print design, illustration, book design, package design, web graphics and advertising.” She calls all of her creative work “offerings of Beauty to the Gods.” On display at Blick’s are five of these “offerings” each of which depicts a representation of a deity or divine spirit. These include Star Goddess of the East, Green God of the South, Horned God of the West, Earth Goddess of the North, and Yemayá, Our Lady of the Oceans, Mother of All Life.
    • The Nathaniel Johnstone Band has announced the release of their fifth full-length album. The new album is called Mother Matrix and features eleven new songs that are an “exploration of that thought process.” The Nathaniel Johnstone Band’s sound is described as “crossing boundaries” as a “blend of European, Middle Eastern, and South American music with Jazz, Rock, Surf, Folk, Gothic, and Steampunk influences – all the while exploring the realms of myth, folklore, and magick.”

  • Authors John Matthews and Caroline Wise have a newly released book called The Secret Lore of London. As described by publisher Hodder and Stoughton, “London is an ancient city, whose foundation dates back literally thousands of years into the legendary prehistory of these islands. Not surprisingly it has accumulated a large number of stories, both historic and mythical, many of which, though faithfully recorded at the time, have lain almost forgotten in dusty libraries throughout the city.” The new anthology explores these mysteries with the help of “key figures in contemporary paganism and earth mysteries.”  
  • From the blogosphere, John Beckett of Under the Ancient Oaks shares a review of the Gordon White’s new book The Chaos Protocols published by Llewellyn. Beckett writes, “This is not a book that tells you how to become one of the financially elite. It is not a book that tells you how to blow it all up or how to live off the grid. This is a book that shows you how to live and work within our current system and maintain your integrity.”
  • Lastly, members of the Pagan Federation International will be gathering in the Netherlands this weekend for its 16th annual conference. The guest speaker is Julian Vayne, who will be giving two talks – one on ‘Chaos Magic and Witchcraft’ and the other on ‘The Medicine Path – psychedelics and spirituality.’ The conference will take place at “Lunteren in the beautiful woods of the National Park ‘de Hoge Veluwe.’ Door open at 9 a.m.

PatheosLogoDarkBG_bioOn Feb. 20, it was announced the Christine Hoff Kraemer was stepping down from her position as Managing Editor of Patheos’ Pagan Channel. She wrote, “With a mix of excitement and sadness, I am writing to announce my resignation as Managing Editor of the Pagan channel. I will very much miss the way this job brought me into daily contact with such thoughtful, dedicated people—both Pagans and people of other religious traditions.”  She added that she plans to dedicate her new found free time to her family.

Raise the Horns Blogger Jason Mankey will be taking up the reins as the channel’s new managing editor. In his own announcement, he wrote, “I hope I can continue the good work Christine’s done as the channel manager here. One of the reasons I love Patheos Pagan so much is that it’s mostly a positive place. I think we tackle big issues and involve ourselves in the big conversations, but I think we do so in a respectful manner.” Mankey doesn’t expect to make any changes to the channel’s direction. He also added that he will still be posting to his own blog, but with less frequency. Kraemer will also continue blogging on occasion at Sermons in the Mound.

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10690138_780594125329471_257600577171379898_n-334x500The beloved missing statue of Manannán mac Lir  was finally found exactly one month after it disappeared. According to the Derry Journal, on Feb. 21, the 6 ft. sculpture was located “by ramblers” who then “advised members of A company 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment soldiers.” Together with police, they were able to recover the statue. As told to the BBC, the statue had been lying among rocks of the same color, making it very difficult to spot from a distance.

The statue did sustain some damage to the back of its head. Regardless, the local community and others across the world are happy to know that the quest is over and the statue is in one piece. Local photographer Mari Ward, founder of the popular Facebook fan page Bring Back Manannán mac Lir the Sea God and a representative from the local police (PSNI) were interviewed by BBC radio about its return. Ward said, “I am completely over the moon about it.” Local officials now plan to consult the statue’s creator and discuss a re-installation.

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PantheaConOver the past week, there has been continued discussion on the controversy that erupted at PantheaCon 2015. As we reported last week, blogger Jonathan Korman published an open letter to the creators of a satirical flyer called PantyCon. In that article’s comments, the anonymous writers issued an apology. In addition, Glenn Turner, the founder and organizer of PantheaCon, offered her own public response to all related recent events as well as an apology for any pain caused during PantheaCon. She said, “With the dawning of a New Civil Rights movement this is the question for our times. I’m glad this issue is front and center.”

Since our report last week, there have been a number of additional blog posts discussing these events and others. One of these posts was the recording of the “Bringing Race to the Table” panel, during which the controversial flyer was brought to public attention. This panel discussion can be heard through T. Thorn Coyle’s Elemental Castings podcasts.

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On Feb. 13, the Akron, Ohio Pagan community lost one of its members. As reported by the local news, 22 year old Brian Golec was fatally stabbed outside of his Akron home. His father is now accused of the crime. After his death was made public, there was quick and viral media response in which Brian was identified as a trans woman. However, that fact was later proven to be inaccurate. Golec’s gender identification was eventually clarified by close friends and family, and was proven to have nothing to do with his murder. Unfortunately, the media frenzy only added additional pain to an already tragic circumstance.

The family, the community and Golec’s fiancee have requested privacy in order to mourn his loss. In our initial investigations, we were able to speak with several area Pagans who knew Brian. They called him “likable, easy going, highly spiritual and helpful.” He was a regular at Cleveland Pagan Pride and attended local Pagan community events. Carrie Acree, the owner of Dragon’s Mantle metaphysical shop, said that many people have been buying supplies for memorials, rituals and other workings in Brian’s honor. There is also, reportedly, a benefit planned for May. In addition a close friend has setup a GoFundMe campaign to help off-set the family expenses and a Facebook memorial page to honor his life. What is remembered, lives.

In Other News:

  • Author John Matthews has begun a new project to tell the story of the “the iconic Scottish bard, Robin Williamson.” The proposed film Five Denials on Merlin’s Grave will follow Williamson around “in his 50th year as a storyteller, singer and musician, performing his beloved epic poem about the legendary history of Celtic Britain.” This will be reportedly the first time that the epic poem “Five Denials” will be filmed “despite its thunderous import within our poetic tradition.” To fund the project, there will be an Indiegogo campaign. It’s progress and all updates can be found on a Facebook fan page and on twitter @fivedenials.
  • It was announced yesterday that documentary filmmaker Bruce Sinofsky had died at the age of 58. Sinofsky is best known for his work on Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996), a film that tells the story of the West Memphis Three. Over at Patheos’ The Witching Hour, Peg Aloi shares her thoughts on the Sinofsky’s work, his influence on the West Memphis case and offers a tribute to his life.
  • Along with a new managing editor, Patheos Pagan Channel also announced the edition of a new blog titled “Energy Magic.” Writer Katrina Rasbold said, “This column will explore the dynamics of magic using the movement of energy, both from a spiritual and a scientific perspective.” She will be updating the blog twice a week beginning today.
  • This past weekend, ConVocation was held in the Doubletree Hotel in Detroit Michigan. ConVocation is an indoor Pagan conference that has been bringing people together from many mystical and religious backgrounds since 1995. As the week goes by, organizers and others will be pulling together photos, posts and retrospectives on this year’s event and festivities.
  • Witches and Pagans Blogger Natalie Zaman announced that Llewellyn Worldwide will be publishing her book Mapping The Magic about [the] sacred sites in America. She wrote “[It] will explore the magic of Washington, D.C. and the states of the Northeast: Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine–as you can see it will hopefully be the first of four books, each covering a different area of the country.” To celebrate, Zaman is hosting a giveaway of either her book or a 2-year subscription to Witches & Pagans Magazine.

That’s it for now! Have a nice day.

During my time at PantheaCon, I was fortunate enough to speak with Geraldine Beskin, the owner of the Atlantis Bookshop in London. Like myself, this was Geraldine’s first trip to PantheaCon and we both were amazed and delighted by the enormity of it all. When we sat down to talk, my original intention was simply to ask her about the changes at the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, but we were quickly sidetracked discussing everything from the Museum to Atlantis; from the Wildwood Tarot to the Occult in film. When two Gemini sit down for a conversation, the topic never stays constant.

Here is an overview and history based on that fascinating discussion.

Geraldine at work in Atlantis Bookshop Photo: The Gentle Author/Spitalfields Life

Geraldine at work in Atlantis Bookshop  Photo Source: The Gentle Author/Spitalfields Life

Geraldine Beskin is the longtime owner of the 92-year-old Atlantis Bookshop in London. Located in the Bloomsbury district on Museum Street two blocks from the British Museum, the shop is the oldest and most well-known occult shop in England and quite possibly the world. It was established in 1922 by occultist Michael Houghton. As Geraldine says, “it was founded by magicians for magicians.” Some of the most well-known occultists and witches have passed through its doors including Aleister Crowley, Gerald Gardner, Dion Fortune, W.B. Yeats and so many more.

Geraldine Beskin  Photo Source: The Gentle Author / Spitalfields Life

Geraldine Beskin Photo Source: The Gentle Author / Spitalfields Life

Geraldine’s own history is very much tied to Atlantis. In 1962 her own father assumed ownership of the store. As a result she grew up in and around London’s magical world; absorbing its energy and learning from the people that came and went. She recalls walking past Gerald Gardner on the shop’s stairs as he headed up to a meeting with her father and others. Although she never formally met him, she knew he was considered the “king of witches.” Today as she shares that memory, she laughs saying, “There stood one asthmatic Gemini named Geraldine looking at another asthmatic Gemini named Gerald.”

At the age of 19, she began working in the shop and then eventually took over as owner in 1972. Due to family responsibilities, she sold the shop in 1989; only to return again in 2002. When she returned to town and repurchased the store, news spread quickly that “Geraldine was back in town.”  It was as if the universe was set right again. Geraldine was back where she belonged.

Today she and her daughter Bali together own and manage Atlantis. They give us a tour in the following video taken by Jack Dark, writer of the popular essay: “A Very Brief History of British Paganism.”

After 92 years in operation, Atlantis is still a shop by magicians for magicians. The world surrounding Witchcraft and Witches is a far cry from what it was in 1922. The store has seen an immense amount of cultural change but has continued to play an important role in England’s magical culture. As Geraldine notes, people from all walks of life stop by, just as Crowley did, for a cup of tea and good conversation. In fact, it was a visit to Atlantis that inspired Shai Feraro, the Israeli academic, to pursue  his research on Paganism and Feminist Spirituality. He said:

After a visit to the British Museum, I stumbled upon an occult bookshop on Museum Street. As you probably guess by now, it was the Atlantis Bookshop … This led to my M.A. thesis on the development of the Feminist Spirituality Movement in the United States during the 1970s-1980s.

Authors John and Caitlin Matthews are two regular visitors to Atlantis.  They said:

Atlantis Bookshop is a central point for all who are seekers on the path of occult wisdom. It’s at once a resource, a drop in for Pagans and seekers of all kinds of magical arts. Geraldine is, of course, herself a fount of knowledge and wisdom, and her expertise on Esoteric arts and practices is both practical and informed. … Whenever we have time in London we call in at Atlantis for tea, a chat and a browse … Atlantis is a shining light in the jungle of London.

Today Atlantis publishes its own material under its imprint Neptune Press just as it did in 1922. They also sponsor workshops and launch books. John Matthews says:

When we were making a trailer for a TV show set partly in the 40s we filmed several scenes in the basement and courtyard of Atlantis, which doubled for wartime London. They have been consistently helpful to us, promoting our work and … drawing the attention of customers to our fledgling publishing company, Mythwood Books.

Geraldine herself offers lectures on occult topics such as “Woman of the Golden Dawn,” “Aleister Crowley: The Man behind the Mask” and “Many P. Hall: The Murdered Mystic.”

Atlantis Bookshop Photo Credit: The Good Author / Spitalfields Life

Atlantis Bookshop Photo Source: The Gentle Author/Spitalfields Life

Atlantis has become an important part of British Witchcraft history. Lurking in its walls, there is a treasure trove of stories from times past. It is an artifact in its own right and even a museum with Geraldine as its curator.

In that way it is not at all surprising that Geraldine works closely with the famous Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall. Established by Cecil Williamson shortly after the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951, the Museum was originally located on the Isle of Man.  After a few unsuccessful moves, the Museum landed in the small fishing village of Boscastle in 1960 where it has remained ever since. Like Atlantis, the Museum has survived much change including a devastating flood in 2004. The waters washed away much of the town and buried the Museum’s entire first floor in mud. Despite this devastation, “the museum lost almost nothing,” says Geraldine who calls the cottage magical.

In October of 2013, owner Graham King announced his retirement.  He bought the museum from an ailing Williamson in 1996 and has been running it successfully ever since. His successor is high-profile art director and set designer, Simon Costin. Geraldine herself remarked how thrilled she was with this appointment. She believes that Simon’s modern media savvy will be a refreshing addition to the British landmark.

However Simon Costin was brought on for more than just media awareness.  He has a unique passion for the preservation of British folklore and the Museum of Witchcraft fits that bill. Although Costin is not a witch himself, Witchcraft history “ticks his boxes,” as Geraldine described. In a 2010 interview with Costin said:

I have been interested in Myths and Folk Stories for as long as I can remember … [This interest] is completely separate from my work as a practice but there is a blurring of interests. I have been involved with it for so long now that it’s hard to say where one thing stops and another starts. My early artworks were influenced by fairy stories and folk tales. Much of my work … takes me into mysterious other worlds where changes in scale have echoes of Alice in Wonderland, so I suppose there are overlaps.

In 2009 he started a traveling Museum for British Folklore.

Quite often over the years, I have tried to find a place where I could learn more about Britain’s rich folk heritage only to discover that we don’t actually have any such institution. This is strange really when we produce so much of it.

Today the award-winning Museum stands as one of the most recognizable tourists destinations in Cornwall, if not England itself. Author John Matthews has remarked, “The museum of Witchcraft is a study centre which enables serious students to get beyond the sensational (although there’s a fair bit of that too)… to the real history of Witchcraft.” In December 2013, the museum announced that it is applying for official museum accreditation and will remain in Cornwall for at least the next five years.

Photo Credit: Selbst fotografiert von JUweL under CC lic.

Photo Source: Selbst fotografiert von JUweL under CC lic.

During our conversation Geraldine couldn’t say enough positive things about the future of the Museum. She also added that the cottage “oozes charm.” It appears small from the outside but when you step inside it goes on and on like a “Harry Potter building.” Together the Atlantis Bookshop and the Museum of Witchcraft have become two respected institutions aimed at preserving what Simon Costin called “British folk heritage” and additionally the history of Witchcraft. Going forward both appear to be in very good hands.

Dancing Pan by Woody Fox Willow.  Sculpture is now on permanent display outside of the Museum of Witchcraft. (

Dancing Pan by Woody Fox Willow. Sculpture is now on permanent display outside of the Museum of Witchcraft. (


For many Pagans autumn is a time for endings and beginnings. The seasonal energies influence not only our spiritual work but they also bleed into our mundane experience both consciously and unconsciously. Now is the time to say goodbye to old projects, bask in the revelry of accomplishments and look towards the possibilities in tomorrow.

Ginger Wood

Virginia Chandler

For Ginger Wood, this particular Samhain has been all of these things and more. As fantasy fiction writer Virginia Chandler, she has reached another exciting apex as she celebrates the release of her latest book, The Devil’s Treasure. From that point, Ginger can see the tops of many other mountains, some she’s climbed and others she has yet to summit. In addition, Ginger finds herself sitting at a proverbial base camp saying goodbye to an incredible two-year adventure as the National First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess (CoG).

Due to her busy schedule, it has been very difficult to catch up with her. This week I finally had that opportunity and we talked about her writing, her spiritual path, Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) and her future.

Heather:  Thanks for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to talk to me.  First, tell me about this new book called The Devil’s Treasure. Can you give us idea of what it’s about?  

Ginger:  I spent most of my childhood in Charleston, South Carolina where I heard many tales about Blackbeard and the East Coast pirates. Blackbeard’s lost treasure and his blockade of Charleston Harbor in 1718 is the kernels of this tale.

H: What does the title mean?

G: There’s a famous quote by Blackbeard wherein he answers the question of where is his treasure?  He allegedly responded, “Only the devil and I know the whereabouts of my treasure, and the one of us who lives the longest should take it all.”  So, I took that quote and built the tale around the “devil” being a metaphor for someone that he actually knew.

H: Your first two books focused on land-based, medieval mythology.  The Last Dragon of the North, co-written with your brother, was a fictional tale about dragon hunting.  The Green Knight’s Apprentice was based on Arthurian myths.  Why did you move away from that world?  

bookcoverG: I love a good mystery and I’m sort of a geek when it comes to focusing in on something. So when I was having a conversation with my friend John Matthews…about Blackbeard’s blockade of Charleston Harbor in 1718, my theory of what Blackbeard’s real motivation was for that event birthed the idea of a new book. So I started really digging into Blackbeard’s legend and his lost treasure with the goal of … finding out what happened to his treasure and why he blockaded Charleston Harbor for just the delivery of a medicine chest. 

I had originally really wanted to write a Pirate novel about the infamous “Money Pit” of Oak Island on Nova Scotia, but I could not formulate a decent tale with the facts that I kept getting from my research on that topic. Yet the more that I researched Blackbeard and the “Golden Age of Pirates”, the more clearly I saw a tale unfolding.

Heather:  Why Part 1 and Part 2? 

G:  This is not a quick tale and since it’s more like a puzzle….I’ve had to write it with much patience, making sure that the pieces all fit… The reader will need patience as well to follow the clues so to speak. This first volume is about 130 pages and has Parts I and II which are “The Devil’s Triangle” and “The Devil’s Box.”  Part I is an introduction to the two main characters and sets up the why of quite a few of the later plot elements that act as catalysts for the characters to do what they do later in their lives.  Part II tosses a few twists and wrenches into the tale and opens the door for the devil to begin influencing not only the Blackbeard character but others as well.

Remember the “devil” in my tale is not the Christian Satan, but a metaphor as I see it used by Blackbeard in his famous quote.

H: How much do you incorporate your Pagan spirituality into your novels?  

G: The Green Knight’s Apprentice is 100% Pagan-influenced with the tale traveling the 8 Sabbats that most Pagans celebrate throughout the year, me making prayers and offerings to the Arthurian archetypes as I wrote it and formal meditations asking my Arthurian Guides how They wanted the tale to be told.  The Last Dragon of the North is simply an adventure tale with no spiritual overtones at all; in fact, it was purposely written devoid of any magic or wizards as we … wanted to tell a gritty, “how would you really kill a dragon” story. For this Pirate series, The Devil’s Treasure, it may not be Pagan-focused, but I have certainly added a few occult, as in mystery, elements to the plot. A new personal Muse has come to me in the form of a Mermaid as I write it. She… keeps me on-track and every now and again taps me on the shoulder to put in her two pence worth.

GreenKnight Cover GraphicH: Muses? So your spirituality directly affects your writing process?

G: Indeed, I have Muses that … bring potential stories to my attention, offer advice and direction as I create, and critique, in their own manner, the words that I write. My spirituality affects everything that I do to some degree and when it comes to expressing a vision or image with words on a page, I often rely very heavily upon my Guides to lend me a helping hand.

H: Let’s talk Paganism. You are a High Priestess of GryphonSong Clan in Atlanta.  What is your specific path?  

G: Wow, okay I’m going to try and be succinct here without seeming to be intentionally aloof and mysterious. My path is very much that of a modern Gnostic or modern Mystic – I seek Knowledge and Enlightenment. My personal path is very heavily influenced by the metaphorical Grail Quest, and I most closely follow the Arthurian mythos for that Journey. When it comes to formal worship, GryphonSong Clan celebrates both Esbats and the 8 Sabbats; our Esbats are very Witchy wherein we cast a circle and do groovy Witch things while our Sabbats are Druidic and are based on the Keltrian Tradition. I’m a member of the Henge of Keltria, a Druidic Tradition, and I have studied with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD)

I am an Arthurian Priestess at heart, a Seeker of the Grail, and I hope to one day see the fabled city of Sarras.

H: You mentioned earlier that you are a born-and-raised Southerner. In your experience, what is the reality for Pagans in the so-called Bible Belt?  

G: The reality is that we have a gajillion Christian churches.  But based on conversations that I’ve had with witches from around the country, the prejudices that Southern witches experience are not unique.  I do think that perhaps Southern Pagans might feel a bit more persecuted, and the Southern Christians seem to be very bold and vocal with their disapproval of anything that’s not mainstream Christianity… but at least in Atlanta, the spiritual community has become very diverse…

H: Do you feel the Southern Pagan community here is different from others around the country? Are their regional difference in Pagan practice?

G: Based on my experiences, we’re not that different from other Pagan communities around the country. We come together when necessary…we love a good festival….I’ve attended rituals with Pagans from many US regions and the chants, songs and holidays are all fairly synonymous and cohesive. The biggest differences in worship and practice that I’ve encountered have been when I’ve had the opportunity to attend rituals with my Pagan kin from across the Pond (UK).  Those rituals have been very much like Mystery Plays and more Druidic in nature. The Brits don’t really go for the “Lord” and “Lady” titles and the Witchy bling such as robes, necklaces, rings.

Turner Family Support Team

2011 LLL/CoG Turner Family Support Team (from left to right): Rev. Charissa Iskiwitch, Stephanie Turner, Rev. Ginger Wood, Lisa Palmer, and Rev. Michelle Boshears

H: Many of those observations have come through your work with the national organization Covenant of the Goddess.  Were these past two years the first time you served on its National Board?

G: [Previously] I had only served as an assistant to the National First Officer in the capacity of NetCo or email list manager. This was my first officer position on the national level. I’ve served in every office on the local level for Dogwood Local Council.

H: Looking back at the two years, what are some of the highlights?  What were some of the more difficult parts of the jobs?

G: Serving such a large, diverse, and consensus-based organization has been extremely rewarding and, at times, incredibly frustrating. The high points were finding the common ground where we could all as a membership come to consensus on matters of import to CoG including formulating official statements from CoG in support of the Parliament of World Religions, Indigenous Peoples, and the Doctrine of Discovery; and partnering with Selena Fox and Circle Sanctuary on numerous issues …Keeping tabs on slippery issues such as the inmate in Massachusetts who claims to be a Wiccan and asked for a legal name change was both nerve wracking and intense. All in all my tenure was a Journey of Service to Coventina and my CoGKin that was a huge learning experience for me and, I believe, helped me to grow as a Priestess and Witch.

Covenant of the Goddess

Covenant of the Goddess

H: While it helped you grow, the demanding job can also take a personal toll.  Why bother?

G: Serving CoG, or any formal organization of Pagans …is going to be and is HARD work. But it is Service to the Goddess, hopefully given in perfect love and perfect trust, and for me, was an essential part of my Service as a 3rd Degree Priestess. Personally it was a goal of mine to do this for the Goddess, in CoG’s case, the face of Coventina. I had and still have a shrine to Coventina in my house, and I offered many prayers to Her during these two years. On a larger scale, I do think it’s important for the formal organizations to not only continue what they started 20 or 30 years ago, but to keep moving forward and address the old and new issues that Pagans face as a whole.

H: In your opinion, where should CoG, as a Pagan organization, being moving to? What do you see as CoG’s future, purpose and direction?  

G: CoG is a ship, so to speak, for its members and friends / allies to use when a ship is needed. There are times when Pagans or Goddess Worshippers need a joining of the tribes to weather, face, and sometimes even defeat issues that inhibit our right to worship. Those are hard battles, painful ones that are really tough to fight on your own. CoG and other organizations such as Circle Sanctuary have fought many of those battles for Pagans … will continue to address these types of issues. It is my hope that CoG will continue to be a grass roots driven entity that works from the bottom up; that we will continue to support the positive and very important Interfaith and Intrafaith work that we do worldwide, and that when the battles come at us, we will rally and stand shoulder-to-shoulder for our right to worship.

H: Pagan ships and Pirate ships.  I am sensing a theme. [laugh] Now that you are done as National First Officer and your current book is nearing its release, What is your next big project?

9781554048953_p0_v1_s260x420G: CoG’s 2014 annual meeting, known as Grand Council and Merry Meet, will be held in Atlanta. I am very involved in that business. That project will keep me busy until next August 2014 for sure.

I am working on Parts III and IV of The Devil’s Treasure series right now, which are called “Devil’s Island” and “The Devil and Edward Teach” to be released in March 2014. Part V, “The Devil’s Treasure”, is the finale of the series and will be released in the summer of 2014.

I am very blessed to have several projects that have me collaborating with some of my very favorite people and very favorite artists.  I’ve got a graphic novel coming out in late 2014 called Ristro that is a science fiction tale I wrote.  The artist is my longtime friend and very talented artist, Garret Izumi…. The prequel to Dragon is in the works, The Northern Band, set for late 2014, and the sequel, A Nest of Greens, will come after that.  The cover for The Northern Band is being created by another good friend and talented artist, David Harper. I’m working with John Matthews on a project that will be an Oracle based on the Anglo Saxon concept of Fate… and we hope to get that released in 2015… I’m most excited about the collaborations with Garret, David, and John, as I consider those partnerships to be gifts from the Gods that I will cherish on a very deep and personal level.

H:  Thank you for your sharing your time and thoughts with The Wild Hunt readers. More importantly  thank you for devoting your energy and expertise to CoG and greater Pagan community.  On a personal note, it was an honor to serve with you on the CoG National Board and a phenomenal learning experience. One last thing, where can readers find your books?

G: All Virginia Chandler novels are available through Amazon in paperback and digital formats. Thank You. 

While Ginger Wood’s tenure as CoG’s First Officer will end on October 31st,  Kathy Lezon will take office the following day. In the near future, I will be publishing a personal interview with Kathy, CoG’s new First Officer.  We’ll hear about her own hopes for the future of CoG as well as Pagan life in the Sunshine State and her experiences working with Lady Liberty League on Florida’s many Civil Rights cases this past year.


In yesterday’s post, I discussed the state of the publishing industry with respect to Barnes & Noble’s recent unimpressive fiscal announcements. How would the disappearance of the last remaining large-scale, traditional bookstore affect the metaphysical book industry? After speaking with two industry experts, the answer seems conclusive. A Barnes & Noble collapse, while not at all preferable, would not permanently damage either company. Llewellyn and the Phoenix & Dragon Bookstore both maintain flexible, diverse, customer-driven business structures that are adaptable in this evolving marketplace.


Photo Courtesy of Elysia Gallo, Llewellyn

Will Barnes & Noble go the same way as Borders? Only time will tell. The industry is still changing and evolving. To date, there are many factors that have contributed to the upheaval including increased competition, changing consumer behavior, and the diversification of the product. There are paper books, audio books and eBooks in multiple formats. There are books published by the “big six,” by independent publishers, and most recently, by the authors themselves.

Self-publishing has become one of the hottest trends in the marketplace. Several weeks ago I interviewed New York Times best-selling author John Matthews, who had just announced the launch of his new self-publishing venture Mythwood Books. After years of negotiating the traditional publishing world, Matthews has chosen to “go it alone” in order to earn a greater percentage of the revenue and to maintain creative integrity over his work. 

As I reported in that article, approximately 43% (or 148,424) of all published books in 2011 were self-published. Bowker Books in Print reports the 2012 figure to be well-over 235,000 titles.The number continues to grow.


Cara Schultz

First-time author Cara Schultz chose to self-publish after an uncomfortable encounter with a traditional publisher. She explains:

The security, expertise, and wider distribution offered by publishers were attractive, but in the end the loss of control over my content and brand weighed too heavily… The publisher wanted to add and subtract products featured in my book based on advertising and marketing partnerships with companies.  I wanted to only feature products I own, use and recommend based on performance. 

Ginger Wood

Virginia Chandler

Virginia Chandler, author of fantasy fiction novels, and Christine Hoff Kraemer, Patheos Pagan Channel’s managing editor, also made a similar choice. Chandler’s first two books were published by Double Dragon Publishing, who she describes as “very supportive.”  However, she “craved more control” over her end product and has now turned to Amazon’s Create Space. Kraemer published her first books through a traditional academic publisher but turned to the more progressive Patheos Press for her most recent work, Seeking the Mysteries: A Introduction to Pagan Theologies. “The royalty percentage [is] much higher,” she says.

In response to the Matthews interview, author Donald Michael Kraig posed a poignant question to those who do choose to self-publish:

Self-publishing replaces everything the publisher did, including promotion, advertising, marketing, etc. Publishers have distributors and can get their books into bookstores and chains. How will you, the self-publisher, accomplish this?

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer

All three of authors had the same response. Shultz said, “Publishing houses say they will help market your book, but … they really won’t.” Chandler agreed saying, “Unless you are JK Rowling, Dan Brown, or a guaranteed million dollar selling author, you are going to be doing all of the promotional legwork.” Kraemer added, “Some publishers still do limited marketing for you, although this is becoming more rare.”

So how does their choice to “go it alone” affect the traditional book industry players? EBooks nearly eliminate the need for a publisher, distributor and brick-and-mortar store. Everything is done digitally. Phoenix & Dragon had already lost 15% of its sales to Amazon even before the popularity of eBooks. Self-publishing only exacerbates the problem.

Many self-published authors, like Kraemer, have turned to print-on-demand publishing services. These companies, such as, bridge the gap between a traditional publisher and full self-publishing. With print-on-demand, the author can offer a tangible product which broadens the potential readership and increases the likelihood of seeing their work on a store shelf.

However, it is not quite that simple. When I asked Candace Apple about the growth in self-publishing, she simple stated, “It makes life crazy.”  Phoenix & Dragon employs a full-time book buyer who evaluates every book sold. This screening process becomes more strenuous with self-published products. In such cases, Apple can’t rely on a publisher’s reputation in order to pre-qualify a book’s content.  Her buyer must carefully screen every self-published book. That takes time.


In addition, the cost is prohibitive.  As Apple explains, self-published authors do not offer wholesale discounts and large inventories. Apple must pay the full cover price plus shipping for every book purchased.

With that said, Apple believes in supporting community and will showcase local self-published authors. “I enjoy finding the gems,” she told me. Fortunately for the self-published Pagan author, the independently-owned metaphysical bookstores have that flexibility. The big chains, like Barnes & Noble, don’t. Going forward, Apple hopes that Amazon’s new distribution processes will alleviate some of the headaches associated with selling the self-published book.

What about Llewellyn? How is it handling the increase in self-published material? Bill Krause said:

There is no denying it has never been easier to self-publish and would-be authors may choose this path rather than submitting a manuscript to a traditional publisher for consideration. We can’t change this, so we have to figure out how to work with it. We have picked up some authors who were originally self-published and sold them to the trade quite successfully. In some cases we had them write new books, in other cases we had them rework their original. In all cases, it’s based on the content of the work.

He continued on to say:

The number of self-published books that find success is extremely small. Unless the author has some industry knowledge and also happens to be a tireless marketer/promoter while also being a strong writer, editor and designer (or willing to pay for this assistance), it’s very difficult to find success. 

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

Author David Salisbury echoed this sentiment saying:

My books so far have all gone through the traditional publishing process. It made the most sense for me to go that route for all the practical reasons. I love writing but hate doing everything else that goes along with putting a book out (editing, marketing, pitching etc.). I felt better handing my work over to professionals who I trust more than myself to complete a nice polished product

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton, author and Wild Hunt Columnist, also chose the traditional route. She said:

All three of my books are published through Immanion/Megalithic Press….I was looking for a partner in the process of working on my book. I chose to publish with a small press because I wanted the support of a publisher yet the creative freedom that a smaller press like Immanion could provide.

But what about that great promise of 70% revenue on every self-published book sold versus the 10-15% from a traditional publisher?  Krause said, “70% of what? To be another face in the crowd with no marketing budget.” He reiterated the importance of the relationship that Llewellyn forms with its authors.  This relationship along with its professional services can be invaluable over the long run – making up for that 55-60% revenue difference.

By Jorghex (Own work) [GFDL ( via Wikimedia Commons

By Jorghex (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

For the author there are certainly pros and cons to both forms of publishing. For both Llewellyn and metaphysical shops, like Phoenix & Dragon, the self-publishing boom has created complications – ones that now must be taken seriously.

As for the mega book seller, don’t count Barnes & Noble out just yet. According to some analysts, Barnes & Noble is now in a golden position to thrive in one specific area –book selling.  It has the brand name, the resources, the real estate and industry clout. The only question is: can it adapt to the changing climate, find a way to work with the growing population of self-published authors and compete with Amazon? If it does, it will only be good news for Llewellyn, specialty stores like Phoenix & Dragon and many others.  If it doesn’t, we can all reminisce about our glory days getting lost in a book superstore.


Full Unedited Comments from authors:

Cara Schultz
Virginia Chandler
Christine Hoff Kraemer
Crystal Blanton


Over the past ten years there has been a significant increase in the number of writers who are self-publishing.  The days of literary agents and big publishing houses may be numbered.   Actual statistics are hard to come by due to the multiple modes of production.  However, several big papers have attempted some estimations.

In 2011 the New York Daily News reported that 43% of all paperbacks were self-published, with overall publishing up 287% from 2006.  The Wall Street Journal reported that self-published books were up by 160% over the same period.  Amazon’s publishing arm, Create Space, told the New York Times that “its books increased by 80% from 2009-2010” alone. 

Self-publishing is reasonably affordable and easily available from the “comfort of your own home.”  It promises higher returns on your investment and stardom for authors with no name, following, or agent to call their own.  For many undiscovered writers who fail to attract the attention of the New York-based big six publishing houses or other smaller companies, the self-publishing option is the only option.

John Matthews

John Matthews

While readers may still associate the self-published book with the untalented or self-aggrandizing writer, times are changing.  Self-publishing has now become a very viable option for even the most accomplished and prolific of authors.  This mode of production puts the power back into the artist’s hands.

Last week I interviewed one such author – John Matthews.  John is an accomplished historian, folklorist, and author.  Over the past 30 years he has written over 90 books on Arthurian mythology as well as a volume of poetry and many short stories.  His children’s book, Pirates, reached the number one slot on the New York Times Best Seller list in 2006.

John is, without a doubt, a prolific, talented and accomplished writer.  This June, he announced the start of a new self-publishing venture. I was able to talk to him about his thoughts on the burgeoning industry and the future of his work.

Heather: To date, all of your books were published by traditional publishing houses. Is that right?

John:  Yes. After 40 odd years of publishing I’ve worked with most of the major publishers who specialize in alternative spirituality, mythology, faery lore, etc.  Off the top of my head I can think of HarperCollins, Element Books, Inner Traditions, Quest books, Octopus, even the Folio Society. The list goes on.

H: After all this time, why have you decided to move away from traditional publishing to self-publishing?

J: Partly from economic necessity, partly from a desire to get some of our old books back into print, and partly to have some control over the appearance and content of the books.

All of our professional lives my wife, Caitlin, and I have had to contend with editors who felt they knew better than we did, who wanted to change the emphasis of various things, cut things out, amend spellings, and so on. In today’s economic climate, unless you’re Dan Brown or Neil Gaiman, you can’t afford to make any kind of a decent living. So we decided that we would do it ourselves. Fortunately we’ve been aided in this by our friend and colleague Wil Kinghan, who as well as being an incredibly good artist with whom we’ve worked several times, also trained as a graphic designer. His input means that the books will look sensational, and hopefully have very few mistakes. In fact, we think they look a lot better than some of the professional titles released by the big publishing houses.

H: Your new publishing company is called Mythwood Books.  Where does the name come from?

J: Mythwood Books comes out of our parent company Mythwood Films, which Wil and I formed five years ago.  We got tired of the really poor independent films that were coming out – never mind the blockbusters! – and decided we would try to make our own. We are currently working on our first feature film, The Mermaids, and a couple of documentaries, which we hope to get into production soon. As we had Mythwood Films already set up, it seemed reasonable to create a book production aspect of that. Mythwood itself is a name that I came up with, and which reflects my fascination with mythology and woodlands, those mighty forests where so many great mythical stories are set.

1053125_10151747905958688_666379567_oH:  You’ve already planned Mythwood’s first book release: Healing the Wounded King. Tell us about this book.

J: Healing the Wounded King is a book I originally wrote in 1997… Essentially it’s about working with the myths of the Grail to promote self-healing.

This all started when I was in United States almost 20 years ago, doing some workshops. Two people came to me in a matter of days with situations that they felt were getting on top of them, and wondered if I had any good advice. As I stood there wondering what to say I felt as though someone had nudged me and whispered in my ear: tell them to meditate on the story of the Wounded King. The Wounded King is one of the guardians of the Grail, who suffers from a wound that can only be healed when the Grail is achieved.

This seemed, indeed still does, such a wonderful metaphor for our need to acknowledge our woundedness and to seek healing in whatever way we can, that I started doing workshops based around this story. They were so successful that I wrote the book. And I’ve got to say that I’ve had wonderful responses from people who use the book and the exercises in it to help them through really difficult times in their life. It’s wonderful to have it back in print again, and have the opportunity to revise it a little and to correct some of the inevitable mistakes that crept in during the process of printing.

H:   Will Mythwood be re-publishing all of your old writings?

J:  Well, there are a lot of them to do of course!  Almost 100.  Quite a few are still in print and we’re happy to leave it that way; but the older titles which have lapsed sometime ago, and for which we now have the rights, will eventually I hope be reprinted in this format. The next one that is lined up from our own list is my book on Robin Hood.

H: What about new books?

J:  We do plan to do new books in the future. It all really depends on how successful the first few titles are. The more people who buy them, the more chance there will be that we can do new books of our own, as well as by other people.

But I do want to say one thing here, and that is that for the time being, we are only publishing books either by ourselves, or by invitation only. So please, please, if you’re reading this don’t send me your manuscript because if you do I won’t read it and I won’t return it to you unless you send me a stamped addressed envelope. I’m sorry if this sounds harsh but at the moment we are just not set up to be deluged with other people’s work.

Caitlin MatthewsH:  What about books from your wife, Caitlin Matthews, another talented and prolific author? Can we expect to see some of her titles? Or your popular tarot decks?

J:  Of course we will indeed be publishing many of Caitlin’s out-of-print titles, though I’m afraid we can’t yet run to tarot decks, because those really require physical printing, and not only is that expensive, but there’s also the problem of where on earth you put them – until you’ve sold them out of course!

H: You’ve hinted that you will be publishing other authors through Mythwood Books. Can you tell us who?

We do intend to produce books by other writers. I can tell you here, and this is an exclusive, that we are going to be publishing a series of novels by Dwina Gibb, wife of the late Robin Gibb of Bee Gees fame. Dwina is a wonderful writer and has written several novels in the past, including two epic retellings of the life of the Irish hero Cormac. We hope to reprint these as well, and then to go on to do the third and final part which she is currently writing.

There are some other possibilities as well, but I can’t really talk about these yet until we have contracts signed. What I can promise you is that we have some wonderful books lined up, by some extraordinary authors.

H:  Let’s go back to the self- vs. trad- publishing debate.  Weigh the pros and cons of the two.  

J: The pros of course are that you have control over what goes into print, though this can have a downside, which I’ll come back to in a minute. The other good thing is that you get to keep most of the money that comes in from purchases. If you think that with an average publisher the very highest royalty that you can get is 12%, we can offer our authors 60%. And that is of actual money received, not percentages of percentages, as you get from so many regular publishers.

The cons are that if you intend to do it yourself it is quite labor-intensive and unless you are very computer savvy can take quite a long time to fathom out all the different formatting problems. The other con goes back to the idea of being able to publish whatever you like. This means, unfortunately, that a lot of shall we say less than wonderful books get out there. They may have nice covers, interesting titles, and they may have an interesting topic; but they can be badly written and full of typos. That’s why you need an editor…

John Matthews and Wil Kinghan

John Matthews and Wil Kinghan

But there is still one thing which I personally find annoying, but which is at the moment anyway, inevitable. There is a certain stigma around publishing your own work. There will always be people out there who will say, “Well, it can’t be very good then, or he or she would have published it with a proper publisher!” There’s not much we can do about that, though the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In time I think people will realize that a great deal of really good work is coming out from smaller companies or self published authors.

And there’s no getting away from the fact that you can make a lot of money this way. I’ve heard of people earning as much as $10,000 a month from their self published books. Of course these tend to be very popular subjects, mostly fiction, and the people in question usually have a couple of dozen books out there. Even if you’re only getting 60% of say $5.95 it soon adds up.

H: Are there any other limitations to self-publishing? 

J: I don’t think there are any limitations providing you have the time and energy and the know-how to format your manuscript. That can require a lot of learning if it’s going to be done properly. But you have to start somewhere. We’ve just been very patient, and taken our time, and made every effort to ensure that every book that Mythwood Books produces will be the best it can be, will look great, and will read on just about every platform out there. That means not only all the Kindle devices, but Nook and a few others I can’t remember at this moment. Each one requires different formatting, to make it read properly, so you can imagine the time that takes.

H:  Will your books only be available via eBook?  

J: For the moment, yes. But once again this depends on the success of the e-book venture. But if it does well, and that is very much in the hands of the people out there who know us and like what we do, then we are hoping to move to print on demand at some later date.

H:  Where can we go to find out more about Mythwood Books?

J: We are just in the process of setting up our website at the moment. So if you go to in the next few weeks, you will be out to find out about current and future publications.

If all goes well, the first book, Healing the Wounded King, will be on sale from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and various other sites in the next 2 to 3 weeks. And of course from our own site also. We are planning lots of extra content, including audio files and other exciting giveaways. But don’t expect those too soon because we are still just starting out.  So we hope everyone will check them out, and we love it if you bought one, but above all please tell everyone who might be interested because that’s the only way Mythwood Books will be a success.

Mythwood Books New Logo

Mythwood Books New Logo

H:  Thank you, John, for sharing your thoughts on the self-publishing industry and the details about your new adventure.  Good Luck as you embark on this new chapter, so to speak, in your own story and career.

After our initial interview, John contacted me to share the latest news from Mythwood.  Early in 2014, he will be publishing “the eagerly awaited autobiography of much loved TV, Stage and Screen actor Mark Ryan.”  Hold Fast, penned by both Mark and John, tells Mark Ryan’s “extraordinary story from Robin of Sherwood via Transformers to the forthcoming TV show Black Sails.”  Hold Fast will be published to coincide with the first season of the new pirate-themed show on Starz.

John is certainly proving the nay-sayers wrong and taking self-publishing to an impressive level of achievement and quality.  I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from him over the next few years as he and Caitlin republish and released their writings under the new Mythwood name.

Mark RyanWhen we left off yesterdayMark Ryan was discussing his experience creating the Greenwood Tarot.  This wildly popular deck was published in 1996 after five long years of work by himself and artist Chesca Potter. Eventually, Mark moved on to other projects. He made guest appearances on a number of American T.V. shows and movies such as: Frasier, AliasJ.A.G., and Charlie’s Angels (film).  He was hired as a sword coach for Richard Gere during the filming of First Night.  And, he toured with Eric Idle in a British comedy theatrical special entitled, “Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python.”  The list seems endless.

However, by 2002, the Greenwood deck was out-of-print. Over the next few years, unopened copies were being sold online for upwards of $2-3,000.  Would Mark re-publish the deck?  Or, was his Tarot journey over?

Part 2:  A Conversation with Mark Ryan, October 4, 2012

Heather: How did you go from The Greenwood to The Wildwood?

Wildwood TarotMark:  I [was] approached to re-publish the [Greenwood Tarot] by several people including the original publishers. Chesca, I believe, changed her spiritual belief path and decided her artwork was not viable. So, I said [to the publishers], “Well, I don’t even know where Chesca is and don’t know how we would sit down and think about it.”  John Matthews, later, approached me and said, “Have you thought about redoing [Greenwood]?”  And I said, “Yes, I’ve been approached. But Chesca’s artwork is in copyright and nobody knows where she is. So we’d have to get a new artist.”

If we could get an artist that was going to bring an extra dimension to this [project], it was definitely worth looking at. Because John had been involved in the development of Greenwood and has written over 100 books on mythological things and because we’d been friends for a long time, I said, “Let’s do it together.”

We got Will Worthington as an artist. As soon as I saw his stuff, I said, “This is going to be a different dimension.” Chesca’s artwork, while being very esoteric and primal, wasn’t easily accessible. I make no apologies for saying, “I like stuff to be accessible.” Once Will started turning out the artwork, I knew we had something quite special.

H: That’s true. The Wildwood Tarot has been just as popular.  It’s changing people’s lives.

M: That’s the point. When you talk about “celebrity,” [it’s] just a vehicle to pull out those ideas that affect people’s lives. If [I am] going to leave anything behind in this world, and we all will, then I want to leave something where people say, “That affected my life.” [Like] Robin of Sherwood, I’ve had more people around the world who have said, “That show changed my life.”

H:  It’s very impressive how you’ve managed to balance your career with such a diverse set of projects from authoring Tarot books, performing on stage and screen as well as being as a master swordsman. 


Mark Ryan as Nasir

M: Yes, and, I was also in the Military. That’s the other side of all of this: finding the balance between the discipline and the spirituality of the sword, the relationship to that symbol and the concept of being a warrior. Then, bringing that into your psyche and applying it.

I’ve got my dog tags here. They’ve got Atheist on them because they didn’t want to put Pagan. If I had been caught anywhere, in a strange place, it would have been quite disastrous. I did try to explain quantum physics, human psychology and the concept of talking to mountain streams or the ocean. But soldiers don’t tend to have those conversations with their senior officers, so I just put Atheist on there.

H: Today, you don’t hide the fact that you Pagan. You talk about it publicly on L.A.’s Combat Radio. Do you every worry about being harassed by fans or industry people?

M: No. [laugh] This is California. L.A. stands for lunatic asylum. I fit in. I’m a member of the loony bin. [laugh] People are much more open and forgiving about any belief systems [here.] They have a go at me more about my interest in Unidentified Flying Objects than they do about the esoteric.

Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone that I know to have an alternative religious view be persecuted. When we did First Knight, Richard Gere used to chant every morning. And, he was very calm, very focused, very nice, and a very generous person.

Only once in my life, I can honestly say, have I actually had my interest in the esoteric used negatively. It was a family matter. It was brought up that I had been writing books about Tarot and that I had written something for DC comics. It was an attempt to blacken my character. Even the judge, who was a staunch Christian, threw the whole thing out and said, “This is crazy. We are talking about DC Comics. We are talking about Tarot cards. This is not devil worshiping lunacy. The guy is quite erudite about it and can explain the symbolism, the functionality and the science of it.” Desperate people do desperate things.

H:  It seems that your spiritual path has helped your career, integrating into your life’s journey.

 T2eC16FHJF8E9nnC6MRnBQGLYpPGfQ 60 35

50th Anniversary Edition of The Green Arrow: The Black Alchemist

M: It’s about being able to articulate a belief system. I come at it from a scientific standpoint – sub-atomic particle physics. Every time they find something new, like the Higgs boson, it opens up a new area of spiritual discussion. I believe that we can, consciously and sub-consciously, communicate with that universe. We don’t need a person or a belief structure. We can do it directly – whether you see it as the “old guy in the sky with the beard” or the Goddess. Somehow we have an intrinsic and instinctive connection on a subatomic particle level to our reality. We can affect our reality by the way we think.

The real magic is in taking that elusive idea, that concept that comes out of the back of your head, and changing it into a material thing. That’s magic – manifesting that idea and turning it into reality.

And, [then there’s] synchronicity. I believe that the way you view the particle, changes the particle [Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.] I try, on a daily basis, to practice changing the particles around me by putting them the way that I want them to go; instead of feeling that I’m a victim being dragged along some path. I don’t believe in fate.

H: Is that what you attribute your success to? Not waiting around. You are changing the particles. 

H: That’s a great story. Very inspiring.  Was it pure luck or synchronicity?

M: I [sometimes] think to myself, “Well, you’ve been lucky.” Ray Winstone, a good friend of mine, said, “It’s not luck. You make your luck. You are willing to go that far on the journey to find it. Consider all the barriers that are in people’s way. We didn’t see the barriers, because we didn’t know they were there. So for us, the barriers didn’t exist.”

When I look back at my career and life, I think, “That’s true.” I don’t know whether the universe helps the ignorant. But I’ve never been afraid of the unknown, of saying, “let’s push it and see how far we can go with this.” I’m not a particularly talented person. But every bit of talent I’ve got, I’ve pushed as far as I can make it go.

Mark RyanH: That’s a very positive message – both a spiritual and philosophical one.

M: I believe if you walk forward positively and creatively, you attract positive, creative. If you’re negative, destructive, selfish, and closed, that’s what you get.

H: That sounds like magick to me. Before we end, would you like to leave the readers with any other message from your own journey? Something you might share in your Tarot workshops.

M: Yes. My father’s advice to me, when he wanted me to go into the construction business but knew I was destined for some theatrical career, was, “Son, I don’t care what you do as long as whatever you try, you give 110% effort. That way you’ll never lose.” You can’t fail even if something doesn’t work out. You can’t fail if you take something away that you can apply somewhere else.  So when I’ve done things that haven’t worked out, I take some experience from that and apply it to the next project. Yes, there are negative elements in life, of course. But you can’t get bogged down by them so you don’t evolve.

Life is a learning process.

H:  Thank you very much, Mark.

While there may not be many mainstream entertainment celebrities that we can definitively pinpoint as being practicing Pagans, they do, in fact, exist.  As for Mark Ryan, his journey still continues.  In November, Mark will be hosting two Wildwood Tarot Workshops with long-time friend John Matthews.  The first is in Atlanta and the second in Seattle.  Beyond that, Mark continues his work on the Transformers Movie franchise as the voice of “Bumblebee.”  And, he is currently in the process of writing several books. You can listen to Mark weekly on Combat Radio and or follow him on Twitter @markryan243.

[Note: This was Part 2 of a two part series. Part 1 can be found here.]


This fall, Stevie Nicks released “In Your Dreams,” a personal documentary examining her life and career.  Announcing the release, Ultimate Classic Rock remarked that the documentary’s release is “the most exciting news for the year for Wiccan candle…enthusiasts.”  After all these years, the media still clings to the myth that Stevie Nicks is Pagan. In a 1998 online Yahoo interview, she was quoted as saying, “I’m not a witch. Get a life!”

Are there Pagan celebrities?  Madonna, Demi Moore and others reportedly have studied the Kabbalah.  Julia Roberts has openly converted to Hinduism.  Although not mainstream, those spiritual paths are not necessarily Pagan. Neither Amy Ray, who loosely uses the word Pagan as a descriptive, nor Dar Williams, whose interfaith song “The Christians and the Pagans” has captured many an imagination, has openly professed to being Pagan.

When it comes down to it, there are very few entertainment celebrities who openly practice a Pagan spiritual path.  There’s Sully Erma, Godsmack’s lead singer, and Teo Bishop, who revealed himself to be recording artist Matt Morris.  Truthfully, we could probably count them on one hand.   Fortunately, just this month, I had the opportunity to speak to one of these rare individuals – actor and writer, Mark Ryan.

Mark RyanYou might know Mark better as Nasir the Saracen from the popular British Television series Robin of Sherwood. However, that’s just one very small part of this his life’s journey.  Mark, a true Renaissance man, has been combining his theatrical and writing talents in a successful career spanning more than 30 years.  He has appeared in dozens of film, theater, and television productions both in the US and UK.  He’s an accomplished swordsman and action director.  As a writer, he has contributed to DC Comics and has produced two Tarot decks; the Greenwood Tarot and, the newly-released, Wildwood deck.  Currently, he is co-hosting Combat Radio on internet-based LA Talk Radio.

The hour long talk developed into more of a in-depth conversation than a traditional interview. Mark was very open about his childhood, his spiritual journey, his career, his beliefs, and the nature of Paganism in celebrity culture.  An edited version of that interview, with video sound bites, will be published here in two parts.

Part I: A Conversation with Mark Ryan, October 4, 2012

Heather: You are openly Pagan. What type of Pagan spirituality do you follow? 

Mark: I describe myself as an eclectic, philosophical Pagan because I don’t really know how else to describe it.  I’m not a follower of any organized religion. I don’t accept the structure of the main three organized religions.  So, [I asked] what structure is there?  And that led me to this philosophical approach – to take the pieces that make sense to me philosophically, psychologically and scientifically and apply that in my life.

I have been in many [Pagan] circles.  In San Francisco, there was a Golden Dawn-type group.  They’ve all got their rules – the way that they do it. That just didn’t feel natural [to me.] It still doesn’t feel natural. A human being [can say], “This is what I’ve been told; therefore, this is the way you must do it.”  I’ve always looked at these people and said, “Well, what about this?”  I don’t care whether you walk your path by looking at crystals or reading tarot cards or reading tea leaves. To me, it’s all the same stuff. It’s your journey and it’s your path. So go do it. I respect everyone’s belief systems. As long as they don’t want to burn me at the stake because of mine, then I’m happy.

H: Which one came first, your Pagan journey or the entertainment career?

Conisburgh CastleM: I was born in a place called Doncaster, South Yorkshire, which was part of the Brigantian Celtic culture long before the Romans arrived. South of me was Sherwood Forest, which I played in as a child. We played Robin Hood surrounded by Conisbrough Castle – the castle used in Ivanhoe. And, York was up the road, which was a major Roman capital. There’s a whole history there of spiritual beliefs.

As a child, I somehow absorbed the Arthurian, Robin Hood, nature-based stuff into my psyche. It just sunk in. The imagery and iconic ideas of the Arthurian Legend and Robin Hood stayed with me as a guide and a way of looking at the world. The Lady of the Lake, the Sword and the Stone and the King – this spoke to me on a deep emotional level.  The Church did not. I had questions about the Bible. I would embarrass myself in religious instruction classes by asking awkward questions for which the teachers had no answer.

H: So, when you started performing, were you formally following this alternative spiritual path?

M: No. It was a long, strange and twisted path. I grew up with a lot of tragedy in my family. But that pushes you to think, “Okay, you are going to die.” How are you going to deal with death? How are you going to deal with life? That really colored my attitude to both life and achieving things in life.
After I got to London, [along] came Robin of Sherwood. [It] was such a natural fit.

H: Tell us the story behind the creation of The Greenwood Tarot.

Greenwood Tarot World TreeM: The artist, Chesca Potter, [and I] were sitting around one night talking about why Robin of Sherwood had had such an impact on the magical world. We were talking about that nature of why those characters speak to people to this day. To this day!  Out of that discussion came the concept of the major 22 arcana and 22 types of personality.  It started almost like an experiment. Chesca wanted to know if I wanted to do a Robin of Sherwood tarot. I said, “No, we’re too close to it.” I thought it was too narrow a vision, to be honest.

I bought my first Tarot deck in 1979. It was the Morgan Greer or Voyager Tarot. But it didn’t speak to me, because I don’t understand Kabbalah. It just does not resonate with me. As I was learning about the Wheel of the Year, [Chesca and I] started to lay out these archetypes around the Wheel. That made instantaneous visual, emotional, and practical sense.

I called John Matthews. I said, “John, we just laid out the tarot arcana in this wheel on the floor. Does this make any sense to you? Does it have validity?” He said, “I wish I had done that! It actually makes total sense. I don’t think anybody’s done that before. There have been other [decks] that have been based on the Wheel of the Year. But the way you’ve done it makes instantaneous, visual sense to me.”

H: Greenwood was very popular but it is now out of print, correct?

M: Yes. It is out of print. I have one copy, the original proof. I get asked if it’s me selling the Greenwood Tarot online for $2-3,000 a deck. No. I don’t get any money from those sales. I only have the original proof.

To Be Continued: Tomorrow, I’ll pick up the conversation with Mark as he takes us from the mysteries of the Greenwood into the depths of the Wildwood and beyond!

Mark Ryan

[The following is a guest interview with John Matthews, author of “The Sidhe: Wisdom from the Celtic Otherworld” and 90 other books, co-creator of The Wildwood Tarot.  Matthews and fellow Wildwood Tarot co-creator Mark Ryan, who played “Nasir” on Robin of Sherwood, will be appearing in Atlanta, Georgia this November to conduct a workshop. The interview was conducted by Virginia Chandler, with an introduction written by John Matthews.]

For many people today, the woodlands are the last vestiges of the mystical world in which we had our beginning. Such places are full of classic archetypes from Robin Hood to the shadowy figures of the Green Man and Woman. To walk in the wild wood is to take a journey back in time to a place where we, ourselves, are different; a place where deep ancestral wisdom still resides; a place where a partnership with the denizens of the wild wood is as natural as breathing.

Based on the seasonal rhythms and festivals of the ancient year, The Wildwood Tarot is filled with the rich mythology and shamanic mysteries of the ancient Celts. Deep within the Wildwood system lies the mystical archetypes of The Green Man, The Blasted Oak, the Archer and the Hooded Man and many others of forest lore.

The archetypal forces of the pack act as both guides and interpreters, taking the user on a spiritual, mystical and psychological journey deep into the labyrinth of primal Earth mysteries. Used as a meditation system, divinatory Oracle, or as a reference work for the seeker of profound knowledge, The Wildwood Tarot will draw you into the heart of the ancient forest and allow you to open up to its mysteries.

Will Worthington, Mark Ryan, and John Matthews

Will Worthington, Mark Ryan, and John Matthews (Wildwood Tarot launch party)

Virginia Chandler: What was your personal inspiration for creating The Wildwood Tarot?

John Matthews: I think the inspiration is really Mark Ryan, because he was the only begetter of The Greenwood Tarot, on which Wildwood is very firmly based. I came along 10 years later. I’d hoped that the original deck would be reprinted, but when it became evident that the original artist, Chesca Potter, was not around to do this, I suggested that Mark should look for another artist and redo it that way. As we talked about this I made a few suggestions of ways that the original concept seemed incomplete and Mark responded by suggesting that he and I collaborate on a new version. The result was The Wildwood Tarot, but I find Mark a very inspiring person to work with. We’ve been friends for 20 odd years and share a lot of interests in common. And of course we were fortunate to secure the services of one of the premier artists of our time, Will Worthington, who understands the nature of the Wildwood and the Robin Hood mythos which is part of it, better than almost anyone else I know of.

VC: What can we find within the Wildwood?

JM: All kinds of wildness and wonder. The medieval ideas of the “wild wood” was like a cupboard into which they stuffed everything they were afraid of – Wodwose, Green Men, demons, strange creatures – and of course the most fearful thing of all- wild women and their sexuality!

VC: As journeymen, what would be the one item that we must take with us into the Wildwood?

JM: Courage.

VC: Where should we seek the Wildwood?

JM: The wildwood is everywhere. It’s inside us. It’s outside us. And, of course, if you happen to be near any of the more ancient forests, not just in Europe; then, you are in touch with the source itself. But for me, it’s about journeying into an inner landscape that is deeply embedded within us. We have a wild nature that most of us have forgotten, but it’s there. And it’s both light and dark. There are ancient atavistic things that need to be approached with care. But even these, if faced up to, can bring blessings.

VC: What is the archetype that you most closely identity with from the Wildwood Tarot?

JM: I have to say I think it’s the Archer. There is something about this powerful image and the sense of direction, of one pointedness and determination. Although we portray the Archer as female in the pock, it can be of either gender.

VC: The Wildwood Tarot is in its third printing; why do you think that this deck resonates with so many people?

JM: Precisely because it touches into a very deep level to the primal energy that still drives us. We may think of ourselves as civilized, but there is always a wildness within.

VC: Why “Wildwood “? What’ so “wild” about it?

JM: I think it’s the freedom, the undisciplined energy that’s within us all – exactly what you feel when you enter the wild anywhere, or if you let your garden grow wild. Even if most of us don’t want to admit it, there’s a memory latent that grabs people in a profound way.

VC: What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

JM: (laugh) Twice what you think it is.

VC: Do you have a favorite card or piece of artwork from the deck?

JM: Either The Archer or The Great Bear. Both, it seems to me, really captures the energy of the Wildwood. But to be honest I love them all.

VC: Other than your upcoming visit to Atlanta in November, what other Wild events do you have planned for 2012?

JM: Well, we hope to continue circling the globe with as many workshops and seminars and book signings as possible – until our global empire is greater than any other and we can take over the world. At the moment, Caitlín and I are contemplating a special event here, in the UK, around Christmas next year at the amazing and legendary Hawkwood College. This will bring together all the many decks we have worked on over the years – one of which will, of course, be The Wildwood Tarot.

More Information on The Wild Wood Tarot.

More Information on the The Atlanta Wildwood Weekend and Signing.