It was announced yesterday that author, publisher, editor and folklorist Michael Howard had died after battling a difficult illness. The announcement read, “The Craft suffers a great loss at his departure.”
Michael Howard was born in London in 1948, but spent most of his life living in the countryside. In his youth, he worked on several farms. It was through this experience that he first encountered Witchcraft. As Michael explained in an interview with Three Hands Press,”I was studying at an agricultural college in Somerset in the early 1960s. [An agricultural worker] told me about the “old ladies” he called witches and who could cure and curse.”
Life in the countryside profoundly affected his spiritual life, and he eventually began researching Witchcraft through books and other materials. As he said in that recent interview, “My experience is that a symbiotic relationship to the land and its genii loci is essential to any practice of traditional witchcraft.”
While studying his new spiritual path, Michael spent some time working for the British music publishers EMI, Sotheby’s, and was later a civil servant in Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise. Then in the 1970s, he began a new career as a writer and publisher. In 1974, Michael launched Spectrum, an esoteric magazine covering a wide-range of occult topics. Spectrum folded after only ten issues. However, its failure did not deter Michael, and he continued on in his publishing career.
In 1976, Michael launched The Cauldron, a magazine dedicated to Witchcraft. For nearly 40 years, Michael poured his energy into editing this well-respected publication. The Cauldron offered its readers an array of articles focused on modern and traditional Witchcraft, magic and the study of folklore. Not afraid of controversy, he included works from many different types of writers. These included people like Ronald Hutton, Gareth Knight, Robert Cochrane, Evan John Jones, Rae Beth, Philip Heseltton, Caroline Tully, Nigel Pennick, David Rankine, Sorita d’ Este, Geraldine Beskin and more.
Before launching the magazine, Michael also began his own writing career by publishing his first book titled Candle Burning: its occult significance in 1975. He would then follow that up with over 30 more titles over the next four decades. These included The Magic of Runes: their origins and occult power (S. Weiser Inc, 1980), The Book of Fallen Angels (Holmes Pub Group, 2004), Pillars of Tubal Cain (Holmes Pub Group, 2001), Modern Wicca (Llewellyn, 2010), Children of Cain: A Study of Modern Traditional Witchcraft (Xoanon / Three Hands Press, 2011), and more recently The Witches Herbal (Red Thread Books, 2013). The herbal was the maiden publication of Red Thread Press and has been one of the Museum of Witchcraft‘s best sellers.
While Michael spent a good deal of his life in the public eye as an author, editor and publisher, he was also an active witch with a private life and private practice. When Three Hands Press asked about balancing these two aspects of his life, he said:
I think it has probably made my life more difficult! It may have helped me to understand the Craft and its various forms but it would have been much easier to have been just an anonymous member of a covine. Having a public persona and a private magical inner life is a difficult juggling act. In my case however it probably suits my dual Gemini personality!
In terms of his private practice, Michael was a member of Madeleine Montalban’s Order of the Morning Star (OMS), a group devoted to angelic magic and Luciferian Gnosis. He was also a co-mason, and an Elder of the Cultus Sabbati. According to his friends at Xoanan, Michael’s spiritual work drew from a deep understanding of various practices, including “herbalism, freemasonry, ceremonial magic, esoteric Christianity… the folklore of his native British Isles” and Luciferian gnosis.. More recently, he focused specifically on traditional Witchcraft.
Throughout his career, Michael kept much of his private life out of the spotlight. His recent illness was not widely publicized, and it eventually overtook him. He died peacefully in Devonshire from complications due to renal failure. In his final moments, he was surrounded by family and friends.
The announcement of Michael’s death came via The Cauldron and the publisher Xoanon. The latter offered an online memorial tribute to Michael. It reads in part:
We remember him as a man of many virtues, of great humour, insight, and courage, as well as his insistence on standing by his brethren, and defending the Craft. Above all, he exemplified the stance of Light-Bringer, and, in its function as tenebrator, the Opposer of Shadow. In this time of mourning, we appreciate and thank our private community for all the support given to Michael and the Cultus over the years, and pledge continued honour to his memory, within the Circle and without.
Director of Xoanon Daniel Schulke was a close friend. He said, “Having spent the majority of his life in the country and having met innumerable and strange people, Mike was a tremendous reservoir of knowledge and could hold forth on the most obscure folk magical practices of Britain and beyond. He was also a formidable teacher and practitioner, and I am honored to have worked with him in the context of a magical lodge.”
As for The Cauldron, current directors posted, “It is with great sadness that we announce that Michael Howard, author and editor of The Cauldron, died recently after a short illness.” They added that, after 39 years, there will be no more newly published editions of the magazine. Back Issues will be available for purchase. In addition, they said, “Executors of Mr Howard’s estate will endeavour to reimburse new and renewed subscribers who have recently paid a full subscription.”
An era has certainly come to an end.
On its site The Museum of Witchcraft posted a note simply saying, “As well as being a long term supporter of the museum, he was also a friend to staff here past and present and will be missed.”
After learning of the news, author, witch and teacher Christopher Penczak said, “I’m really sad to hear that Michael Howard has passed. Not only do I admire his work, but he was always very kind to me, offering information, hints and sometimes critique. May the ancestors welcome him.”
As is best said in Xoanon’s memorial tribute, “The Craft suffers a great loss at his departure.” With out a doubt, Michael Howard has left a powerful legacy for future generations. That legacy lives in print for the public, in the hearts and minds of his friends and family, and perhaps even in the spirit of the land that he held so dear.
What is remembered, lives.
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Note: Messages of condolences may be sent to Xoanon, 1511 Sycamore Avenue, PMB 131, Hercules, CA 94547, USA.