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A dialogue about distance training
and some student questions

by valerie walker and students
©2005-10

Q.: Would you work with me as a distance teacher? From what I understand, there are two Feri initiates in [my country] but neither is likely to teach for quite a time because they are fairly new. I also want to work through Thorn's book. Is there likely to be problems doing both?

My online classes are for beginners in Feri, but students should have some knowledge (and conversation) with other forms of the craft or other areas of the western mystical tradition. Graduates of other distance classes such as Thorn's or Storm's are welcome. (I'm not prejudiced against complete n00bs, but it might be difficult for them to follow without some background.)

There is a private Yahoo list in existence for file-swapping and student discussion, and I plan to email lessons to students once a month. These will be the exact same lessons I teach in MeatSpace. If you have a hard time keeping up, that's no reason to be discouraged--everyone's in a different place when it comes to previous studies, emotional and spiritual readiness, and ability to contribute to the online discussions, I would hope that each student will be active on the e-list (to which invitations will be sent out once you sign up), and actually do the work of each lesson (yes, there are assignments for reading, discussion, and solitary work).

Text (required): The Dustbunnies' Big Damn Handout Book by Valerie Walker, available on lulu.com (free pdf also available for download) Cost is, as always, free. Duration is eighteen months, and after that, we'll see. I think that after the first eleven lessons, different students may choose to stick around for more advanced work, or find another teacher, or... It's up to the individual. And I am fine with students in this class taking classes from other Feri teachers; in fact I encourage it.

I believe that the more views a student gets of the Feri tradition, and the more ways s/he has to work the energy, the better. I never met Victor Anderson, but I'm told by people close to him that he'd give people the things he felt they needed, and this was different in each case. Plus, Cora Anderson (who I take care of on weekends and have for several years) once told me "there are a thousand ways to do Feri." When I asked if I could quote her on that she said with an impish smile, "well, a hundred."

Let me know if you are interested in the next iteration of the class (they begin each March). You can reach me by sendfing me a personal message at my Facebook page here or on LiveJournal here.

Q: I am reading through Thorn's book and then intend on working through some exercises. Can you suggest some other useful reading? Also, what would you recommend as a beginning practice? The one on your website or something simpler?

A.: I'd say start working with Thorn's book exercises, and also with my web pages. It's about as simple as you will find, I'm afraid. Begin with the Daily practice I page, adding a new item every few days or so. Use the circle script as a framework. Save the complicated things, like the Ladder of Hestia or the full Daily Practice, for a little later. In fact, why don't you try going by the curriculum I have set out?

Also, check out the Vicia site at http://www.lilithslantern.com. You will find some interesting essays, good links, and a bookstore for Feri-related writings. (Caveat: everyone is all enthused about Thorns of the Blood Rose and 50 Years in the Feri Tradition, but if you are a linear thinker they will just drive you nuts. You have to read them with a poetic eye. 50 Years was written by Cora, and she used the same style that Victor did, which is leaping wildly from subject to subject, answering questions which were not asked, etc. Maddening. But there is a wealth of lore in 50 Years, if you can take the time to read and re-read it.)

Q.: Am I right in saying there isn't a lot of ritual as such in Feri since I don't really see much mention of it on Feri sites or in Thorn's book? Also, does the same go for festivals?

A.: No, there is a ton of ritual, but most Feris are loath to make it public. If you begin with the basic circle, which is a much-simplified version of one I was given by my second initiators, you can add on and elaborate as you discover new things which excite you. The main thing is to be excited about what you are doing. A rule of thumb I use for myself: if I find that (after a good try) I am incapable of memorizing a ritual or some other work, that means that deep down I don't want to remember it, and I should listen to that feeling and substitute something which does grab me. I don't mean you should indulge in gratuitous importation of bits and pieces from all over the place; you will get a feel for the Feri "taste" and will be able to find other exercises, chants, specific ritual practices, etc. that match that "taste". Sorry to be so vague, but Feri is a very non-linear study. What Victor used to do, according to all the accounts I've heard, was to tell the individual to look at the practices of his/her ancestors. So if an African-American person came to him, he'd give her a lot of things about the African heritage to study. If the person was Jewish, he'd turn him toward the Kabalah, and so on. This was because he felt that Feri is in the blood, literally, and that we should each be looking toward what our ancestors did for clues. Your ancestral heritage might be a good place for you to begin looking.

Festivals are celebrated pretty much as other Wiccan- and Pagan-based trads do. The Andersons themselves only celebrated things like Xmas, Easter, and Samhain, the holidays that made it into the general American secular calendar; but you can feel free to celebrate all or none of the eight wheel-of-the-year holidays. I have attended a Brigid celebration put on by Feris, and the main differences from anyone else's Brigid rite were the particular beginning invocations and endings.

There was an all-Feri ritual organized by Thorn at Pantheacon 2006, for which I opened and closed the circle, and Feris from a lot of different lines took different parts. The program blurb read: A Feri Ritual of Love and Creation: Journey into ritual space, floating in darkness with the Star Goddess. Make love to yourself, giving birth to paradox, the Divine Twins who are brothers and lovers. Together they - and you - form something new and beautiful, neither earth nor air, light nor shadow. This being is the Peacock, beautiful and proud. Dance, shake your tail, and fill the seven heavens with thunder! Dress in your finest garb and come ready to journey. It was the high point of the Con for plenty of people. One participant described it as "a pivotal moment in Feri," when it all came together.

Q.: Sorry to ask such a lot of questions but witchcraft in [my country] is very different in that it is very traditional Wiccan based.

A.: Well, there aren't that many Feris here in the US either, most being on the West Coast in the San Francisco Bay area, where I live. Lots of students are learning through Thorn's traveling teaching, but many people aren't anywhere near a live teacher.

If you want to communicate with other Feris, I have an email list on Yahoo. The freeformcraft e-list is an open list, and Witch Eye has a Yahoo list as well.

Q.: I had a look through the curriculum you put up. I presume this is based on weekly lessons?

A.: As if ;) No, the way I've been teaching it is as monthly lessons. I think weekly is a little too often. One lunation is a nice significant chunk of time in which to digest each bite and make it part of you.

Q.: I suppose my question would be if I worked through the curriculum and supplemented that with other material, what would be next?

A.: Coming up with your own stuff. The curriculum should give you the basic toolkit. And that's really what Feri is in my view, a toolkit. The things you decide to build with it are your own personal choices, based on your own individual needs and insights. I wouldn't presume to tell anyone what to build with the toolkit; I simply show examples of things I've come up with and hope the example rubs off.

Q.: I get the feeling from reading around that Feri seems to be a process that culminates in initiation after a few years but initiation is not necessarily the aim of it.

A.: Since the following things are true:
a) there are very few Feri teachers available for students in far-flung areas;
b) there is no self-initiation in this trad;
c) there are many many MANY ways to "do" Feri;
d) not everyone is called to marriage with the gods (which is what initiation is);
therefore, not everyone who studies Feri ends up initiated. However, you should never rule anything out. It might happen some day, if you want it to. And I don't consider initiates a higher class of being than students, so I can't see that anyone really NEEDS to be initiated into Feri unless they sincerely feel called to it. I've initiated several people myself, and it's been very interesting to see how it "took" in the various cases. Some were the better and stronger for it, and some weren't.

Q.: I spent a bit of time this afternoon working through some of Thorn's exercises and the Flower Prayer. I did a water cleansing as Thorn suggested followed by the Flower Prayer and then practiced Expanding Attention and then what she calls the Aligning Prayer, which seems like a yogic breathing exercise. I have to admit I felt very at ease afterwards but also full of energy. Would this seem a good collection of exercises to start with?

A.: Sure. Try doing them in different order and see what the effects are. Try also doing some of them one day and others the next. Record your reactions and thoughts in a journal (or blog if you feel like letting others in on your thoughts). Try skipping a day after you've been doing these exercises for a while. How does that feel? Keep tinkering with the exercises, trying new ways to do them, new places to do them in, new times of day, new words to use. Elaborate. Simplify. Play with them. You might find that you feel better doing a lot more or a lot fewer things as daily practice. Everyone's different. Make whatever you decide to do your own, however you can. One person made a sort of magickal rosary with sets of beads of different kinds that stand for the various exercises and prayers she uses. I thought that was particularly clever. I myself made an altar and various magickal implements. If there's an art form you favor, definitely do some work in it. Even if you aren't particularly gifted in the visual arts, it's a good way of involving Fetch as well as Talker and Godself. And you might want to read Anaar's little booklet, The White Wand. She's very right-brained in her approach to Feri. You can get her book through her website.

Q.: I wasn't sure what to do with the flower prayer, I can understand what it means but is it meant as a meditation or a chant or just a statement?

A.: It's the opening statement of the practice as well as the first bit of the meditation; it can be a chant, and it's also a conundrum to puzzle over. Just who IS this flower above us? and what IS the work of this god? The rest of the practice is, or should be (I think), dedicated to finding the answers to these questions. That's why I do the flower prayer at the beginning and the Kala exercise a little further along in the process.

Q.: I was reading Thorn's book ahead of the exercises I am practicing and came across the section about consecrating the wand. I wouldn't describe myself as being particularly repressed sexually but I found the idea of using my own "juice" to empower a wand difficult to deal with. Is this a regular part of Feri or is it Thorn's particular take on it? Is this something that I should just learn to deal with or could it present a problem in the future?

A.: You can use any "juice" you like. Saliva works. I think it's just using some DNA-bearing substance to establish a powerful connection / aka thread with the wand or whatever tool you're empowering.

There is a recurrent theme in Feri online communications and writings about how transgressive and out there it is to be Feri, and this is usually taken to mean sexually. However, if you look at the truly transgressive nature of the Andersons, they were actually quite restrained in terms of physical sex. I think the "transgressive" element came in when lots of gay and lesbian people were attracted to Feri, and the attempt was made in some quarters to define Feri as being primarily "queer craft", which was not Victor's idea. Victor's genius was more in combining so very many ritual and mythic elements into a reasonably coherent whole, in claiming racial kinship with just about anyone, in making amazing blanket statements which couldn't be proven or denied, and in giving a much larger meaning to sexual terms than merely physical actions. The Andersons insist that, for example, they had met and had sex for years on the astral plane before they ever met physically; when they met in person, they recognized each other instantly and were married three days later. Now that's transgressive....

Q.: Should I be casting a circle each time I do a practice?

A.: Not unless you feel like it. I don't usually for my daily practice. That way, casting a circle, while familiar, becomes more of a special thing that I share with other people.

Q.: Do you know of any rituals that would work well as a solitary for the full moon that rely on visualization or trance?

A.: Solitary work is best done by either adapting things you like from group work or making up your own. (At least, this has been true for me. YMMV.) There are so many variations of visualization or trance -- here's a pdf of a Chaos magickian's take on the subject. that ought to keep you busy for a while!

Q.: What I don't really understand is how these exercises really work. I can sense a change in vibration but don't understand why visualization and breathwork has this effect. I find I work better chanting the KA ZA BA mentally rather than aloud, mainly because I don't want to alarm the neighbors. Will this still have the same effect?

A.: Breathwork and visualization are mysterious things. They definitely work, otherwise they wouldn't be spread all around the world in zillions of different cultures' spiritual practices they way they are. I think they're hardwired into the human body/brain. It's more fun to do things aloud, but a good intense whisper can rock too. I usually do my daily practice in a whisper so as not to disturb my housemate; but when nobody's there I do it out loud. Different but cool in both circumstances.

Q.: In my daily life I try to be conscious of my Three Selves and do HA prayers. I have a pretty good idea of the Three Selves and have done quite a bit of work already. Anything in particular or in addition I need to focus on?

A.: Look at the functions of the Three Souls AND the body. Four is the number of completion, and the HA prayer is four breaths, not three. So when you do the HA prayer, bring one out of the body and one out of each soul, thus:
(breath from feet) HA from the roots: my feet are on the earth
(breath from genitals) HA from the stem: my loins are in the moon
(breath from heart) HA from the leaves: my heart is in the sun
(breath from entire body to above the head, looking up) HA to the flower: my head is in the stars

[The plant analogy is mine, the epigraphs are ganked from R. J. Stewart]

Also, look at the way each number generates the next. One (the Star Goddess) generates Two (the Twins). Two generates Three (the Three Souls). Three generates Four (the four planar directions). Four generates Five (the Pentacle). Five generates six (the six directions with Above and Below) which generates Seven (adding the Center). This is reminiscent of the formation of the Sephiroth in Qabala, or Pythagorean number theory. Go as far with this as you care to, if you are mathematically inclined. Everything is connected to everything, as Lon Milo Duquette proclaimed in his Chicken Qabala.

Q.: On the Feri Circle: are we to simply read over this or actually do it? I haven't done work with the Guardians yet, and am unsure about the setup, as with the candles. Elemental candles, I'm assuming. As for the Star Goddess one, would white work?

A.: Do it. Refer to the script as long as you need to until you have it memorized. Then start adding your own little touches. About candles: for the SG I use either white (contains all colors) or purple (contains red, white and blue, one color system Victor used for the Three Souls), or black (contains no colors, the black of the space between the stars). Your choice, or whichever is easiest to find. But white is default for any candle for which you don't have the "correct" color. These rules are simply more methods to get your psyche attuned to the concepts behind them. If you have more of a SG association with, say, puce, use that. Personal correspondences trump traditional, in my view.

Q.: On the KA-BA-ZA exercise: I love this! Did you come up with this? It's especially effective for me. Why the x9, though? I mean, I know that repetitions are no new thing, but how important is it to do it that many times? I don't know if I'd be able to handle it. Just doing it once leaves me reeling for a good while.

A.: The KA-BA-ZA is not my original creation, but was passed to me by my second initiators, who also recommended the 1-3-6-9 repetitions (probably because 3 is the number of the Maiden, 6 the Mother, and 9 the Crone, I'm guessing). For myself, I do it once to awaken the Fetch, focus the Talker, and ask the aid of the Godself, then (usually, unless I am particularly rushed and need to do a quick-n-dirty practice) follow up with the Ladder of Hestia. But doing the KA-BA-ZA full-out nine times is a great way of running energy through the system.

Q.: Something that's bothered me for some time now: I tend to get really sexually aroused during practice for no reason and my energy gets "stuck" there and doesn't flow evenly throughout my body. I've learned to ground, which helps, but at times it becomes really intense and then painful when I'm stuck on edge for hours when I'm at work.

A.: An interesting reaction, and not uncommon. All energy originating in the root chakra manifests as sexual. Rather than grounding it see if you can return it upward, modulating it as you go into healing, creative force, courage, openheartedness, truth, clarity, understanding, and stillness (the steps of the Ladder of Hestia). This is where a chakra working such as the Ladder can be useful, because the modulations are more gradual than those of a simple three-step KA-BA-ZA. Follow up with a prayer to the Star Goddess to take the energy and then a four-breath release (HA prayer). Then reverse directions, use the Kala rite to take in purified energy from the Star Goddess from above to below, purifying spirit, thought, feeling, and action, thus replacing the volatile energy you just released to the Goddess with the HA prayer with workable energy which you can keep in your body without knocking yourself for a loop. You feed Her and She'll feed you.