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An Interview With

Raymond Buckland

Raymond Buckland

Raymond Buckland truly is a living legend.  He knew and practiced with Gerald Gardner, and wrote the first book I ever read on Witchcraft, Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft.

With some 60 books now published, he is a prolific author, and speaker.  He has now entered the realm of fiction, with his latest book, which he speaks about in this interview.

It is with great pride and reverence that we present this interview with Raymond Buckland.

First off, I want to thank you so much for taking time to give this interview.  I guess my first question is a natural one, how long have you been a practicing Witch, and how did you first come to your Path?

Raymond Buckland: I was initiated into Gardnerian Wicca in 1963. As a child I was an avid reader and was introduced to Spiritualism (by my uncle) when I was about twelve. I read everything I could on that subject then expanded my interest to other related subjects: ghosts, ESP, magic, witchcraft, etc., etc. 

Some years later I read all of Margaret Murray’s books and became intrigued with Witchcraft. Then Gerald Gardner’s books came out (1954 and 1959) and I was hooked! I got in touch with Gardner and, since he was wanting to spread the Craft to the U.S., I was invited to be initiated by Gerald’s own High Priestess, the Lady Olwen. I went to Scotland for that.

CW: As one of the first authors on Witchcraft, and the one credited with bringing Witchcraft to America, it must have been somewhat intimidating to hold yourself out publicly as a Witch.  What was it that caused you to write that first book on Witchcraft?

RB: Gerald’s books eventually went out of print (they have subsequently been reprinted, several times over) and I didn’t want that to be the end of the Witches’ side of the story. Gerald’s books were the very first to tell the story of Witchcraft from the Witches’ point of view, so it was important that that voice continued. So I wrote “Witchcraft From the Inside.”

I never set out to be a leader/pioneer/major figure in Witchcraft; I just got pushed into all that! For the longest time I would do interviews and write articles to straighten the misconceptions that existed (this I felt to be my task), but withheld my name and picture. Then a columnist for the New York Sunday News, who assured me she would honor my confidentiality, boldly published my name and address and all hell broke loose!

CW: From all of your experiences as an author, what is your favorite story about being a "known witch"?

RB: About fifteen years ago we moved from San Diego to Ohio and I retired from public life. We bought a small farm in the middle of Amish country and I continued writing, happy in the knowledge that no one locally knew who I was . . . . until a young lady from a nearby high school tracked down the name of the village where I lived (though I’m actually outside the village itself). She decided to come and talk to me so she went into the village and to the general store, asking where I lived.

No one seemed to know the name so she said “Oh, you must know him – he’s the famous witch!”  Somehow she did find me and told me what she had done. I was aghast! I spent some time with her, answering her questions, but as soon as she left I went into town and to the store. I said to the people there “Did you have some crazy kid come in here calling me a Witch?” We all laughed about it and then I slipped away. Happily very, very few locals know who I am even now.

CW: You’ve seen Witchcraft in America from the beginning, how has it changed in the last 44 years?

RB: The major change is that it is now accepted in most places, with the majority of people now knowing – if only roughly – what Witchcraft really is. The tremendous expansion of it is certainly a change – it’s been called the fastest growing religion in the United States.

We now have representation at interfaith conferences, here and abroad, and Wicca chaplains who are able to go into prisons and hospitals. Most recently, of course (thanks mainly to the work of Selena Fox), the Pentagram can be placed on the memorials of Veterans.

CW: Do you think those changes are for the better, or would you have wished for something different?

RB: Very definitely for the better. Anything that stops prejudice and ignorance has to be better. I knew it was going to take a long time – and there’s still a long way to go – but I’m delighted that such great strides have been made.

CW: How have your beliefs and practices evolved since the first printing of Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft?

RB: My beliefs are still pretty much the same but my personal practices have changed in that I have given up coven practice and am now very solitary. I feel I’ve “done my time” in teaching the Craft, and public ritual, and probably in writing about it too.

I have no plans to write further on the subject (there are plenty of excellent newer voices around now) and want to concentrate on other writing . . . fiction in particular.

CW: You are a prolific author, with some 60 books published. What have you been doing recently?

 RB: I recently completed a book on ghosts, at the request of Red Wheel/Weiser. It will be out this spring: “The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts.” Recently out is my fantasy novel (the first of many, I hope) called “The Torque of Kernow”. I am also trying to finish (I keep being distracted!) my autobiography, which is three-quarters done. And I am deep into a major novel set in Victorian England and France, based on the Order of the Golden Dawn and the Illuminati. It’s called “Golden Illuminati.”

CW: You’ve recently written a book affectionately known as “Big Red”, called Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications Can you tell our readers more about it?

RB: Spiritualism was my first introduction to the whole metaphysical field and in recent years I seem to have gone full circle and returned to it. I teach workshops at Lily Dale, NY (the world’s oldest and largest Spiritualist community) and speak at their churches, and have done so for the last four or five years. “Big Red” is a book arranged in the same way that “Big Blue” is – with lessons rather than chapters – that covers most of what I teach. I have also done a large encyclopedia on the subject, titled “The Spirit Book” (there’s also “The Witch Book” and “The Fortunetelling Book”, each with a quarter million words on the subjects). I am probably far more active in Spiritualism than in Witchcraft, these days.

CW: Can you give us some information on your most recent book, which is a work of fiction, called The Torque of Kernow?

The Torque of KernowRB: Yes, this is a book very dear to my heart. It is a fantasy novel in the Tolkien genre. It is not a trilogy, in the sense of “Lord of the Rings” but is an on-going series about the land of Kernow.

Each book will be complete in itself, though there may be carry-overs of some of the characters (check-out the
Chronicles of Kernow web site). “Kernow” is actually the old name for Cornwall, in the southwest of England; my favorite part of the country.

The book’s Kernow is loosely based on that area and the “old tongue” used by some of the characters is also based on the old Cornish language.

CW: Given the opportunity, what is the one thing you would wish to tell every Witch?

RB: Be true to yourself. By that I mean to remember the Wiccan Rede and apply it to yourself as much as to anyone else. The Rede is basically what is generally known as the “Golden Rule”, and is found in virtually all religions.

I’m amazed at the so-called “Witch Wars” (I hate the term!) that flare up on both large and small scales all across the country. Those involved have generally forgotten, or chosen to ignore, the Rede.

By doing so, they are showing themselves not to be true Witches. If you want to be a Witch, then be a Witch in the truest most honest sense of the word. Don’t be coerced into doing anything that you don’t want to do, and don’t try to coerce anyone else into doing what they don’t want to do.

Always remember that Witchcraft/Wicca is a religion of LOVE.

CW: Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to talk to you, and to learn more about who you are, and what you've been up to.  This really has been a fascinating discourse, and I hope that we may be able to do it again.

RB: Thank you, and go in Love and Light. 

For more about Raymond Buckland, you can go to his website, www.raybuckland.com, and you can always find his books in your local bookstore, or at amazon.com.

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