Halloween is past, and “astrological Samhain” approaches–November 7 this year. As it was the date preferred by my late teacher, Gabriel, for the celebration of the Sabbat, I always pay attention to this event.. This year, the anniversary of Gwydion Pendderwen’s death in 1982 falls on the eve of astrological Samhain, on November 6. It has been said that it was Gwydion’s suggestion to give the name “Faerie Tradition” to the teachings of Cora and Victor Anderson and the new coven, Mahealani, they founded with Gwydion during the late 1960s. (The name Mahealani means “Full Moon”–or “Heavenly Moon.”) Gwydion is an important ancestral figure for many Faery Witches–his photo is on my permanent ancestral altar, and I always listen to his music as part of the preparation for each Sabbat celebration. And thus, in honor of Gwydion’s memory, I would like to share the original preface he wrote for Victor’s first anthology of poetry, Thorns of the Blood Rose, originally published 1970. I wish to thank my beloved Oathsister Nightshade for her kindness in sending me a photostat of the original text.
With today’s overwhelming interest in the occult by people of all walks of life, Thorns of the blood rose is a timely work, depicting the innermost thoughts, strong convictions and lifelong torments of a priest of the Old Religion.
Blind since infancy, Victor Anderson has spent a lifetime struggling against various obstacles that would have left most men broken, dejected wretches without any will to live. His childhood years were filled with the rabid pronouncements of his Fundamentalist family; his teens were years of frustration in which his burning desire to learn was constantly belittled, years when love flirted with him and aroused him, but offered no lasting solace.
Adulthood brought little in the way of comfort to him. Injustice, cruelty and horror lurked in every stinking alley-way he passed; preachers condemned sinners on every street corner, while sinners anesthetized their already infernal lives with opium and cheap whiskey; TB-ridden girls of fourteen sold themselves for the price of a fix; and all the while, the churches were filled with people buying their way into heaven with nickels that should have bought their next meal.
The poet was a part of this world of the damned. He heard the crying of starving babies, the cough of the dying hobo; he drank from the bitter cup of the beggar and touched the weeping eyes of the prostitute. And yet his spirit did not die in the midst of this misery, but seemed to comprehend the why of it all.
Life held a precious joy for him, though. Even before he had learned to walk, spirits would come to him in the night and teach him the mysteries of the universe. Bright beings, whom he could see with that inner eye neglected by his contemporaries, showed him the structure of molecules and took him to the stars where he learned their gaseous natures.
It was the bedsprings, he once said, that first spoke to him of the mysteries of life, when all else was silence. Many see in this the seeds of schizophrenia, but here was no stranger phenomenon than that of spirits speaking oracles to the ancients through the crackling of green branches in the fire.
Secretly, Victor Anderson would go to join the covens in their ancient rites under the full moon. In time, he was initiated into the circle of witches, learning a magic vital to man since the first shaman spoke with the wind: We are all part of the Goddess, who is all things to us. She is earth, air, fire and water. While we do not abuse Her, She will be bountiful unto the end of time.
In the Oregon of his youth were many strange and wonderful persons who became his teachers. An Indian who barely spoke English, a band of gypsies who seemed never to grow old, and the ever-present crone who lived in a decrepit hovel on the edge of town–all sought him out as if they knew that he was chosen to speak for them when their world was gone. As a poet, Victor Anderson speaks for all men, but most especially for those whose lives are but faded memories.
Thorns of the blood rose is the voice of sadness, fondness, reverie, despair, hope. It is the voice of a spirit whispering softly in a wondering child’s ear.
The legacies of both Victor Anderson and Gwydion Pendderwen live on in the world in an active, ever-evolving form. In music, bardcraft, memory, story, and the art of magic itself that lives in the blood, bones, and breath of every human, one may catch an echo of the immemorial truths they held however briefly in their joined hands, like Olympic racers passing the torchlight on, to rekindle the fire upon the sacred altars of old. Let that light be a beacon to us as the darkness of the year draws in. So Be It! Io Evohe!