Thursday 11 August 2022

Interview with Traditional Witchcraft Writer Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan is the author of books on Traditional Witchcraft and the Otherworld, as well as several fiction titles. His background in the esoteric ranges from academic to practical to the highly personal, including his road re-adjustment following life-saving surgery. I've interviewed him for A Bad Witch's Blog:

Q: You are the author of non-fiction books on Traditional Witchcraft and sorcery as well as novels and and your background includes a PhD thesis on occult literature as well as practicing traditional witchcraft and animistic spirituality. What started your interest in the esoteric?

A: Due to some rough life experiences at that time my PhD was never awarded, but yes, I wrote it, and researched it, and forced three non-practitioner markers to listen to me speak supportively about magic. As to my interest in the esoteric I suppose early visionary experiences with spirit visitation was the main source. Ever since that began I was looking to find a term for what had been activated and awakened. The stories of how people like Bessie Dunlop, the so-called faerie witch, got started had a lot of resonance for me.

Q: How would you best define your own spiritual and magical path or tradition?

Most of the time I prefer not to! Words have an off-kilter relationship with witchcraft, to my way of seeing things, it very much is a deed beyond names. I fall back when I must on the term Traditional Witchcraft because I follow a practice that has been passed from one person to another, which is not Wicca, and has a certain local focus making it unique in some ways, but recognisably similar to other forms of Traditional Witchcraft in other ways. Unlike a lot of people though I’m not deeply attached to the term and see being anti-Wicca as a bit 90s. In some ways I think it was initially a term that was created to express the fact that not all forms of witchcraft were Wicca, nor follow the same rules as those publicised at the time. Whether or not the era in which we need make that distinction so vehemently has passed I will leave up to the viewpoint of history, I suppose. If I had to define my path without those words I would say that it’s a form of sorcery only suitable for some people, those we describe as Marked. Those people have certain forms of perception already in place which can be developed further. It’s a life-way that involves stepping outside not just of the Hedge for flight, but also out of the standard viewpoints of society. It is Other. It is foreign to every culture. In some ways it is monstrous, and from that same place it derives its grace.

Q: Do you prefer writing fiction or non fiction and why? 

A: I would once have said fiction, but then there is a certain buzz to research and the positive reaction you get from providing people with well-tested tools that they can use to throw off limiting perspectives they got from inside the Hedge… We’re living in an era where I think shaking up worldviews is a potent undertaking. Whether or not the people receiving those tools class as witches to me is almost beside the point. I don’t actually care to extend that judgment outside of my own coven really. What interests me is providing insights from the eyes of the Other to people who are otherwise immersed in the limiting mindset inside the Hedge. Sometimes the alienness of both our life-way and our perspective can really liberate people who are ready to hear. I’m interested in doing that both through fiction and non-fiction. Fiction has the liberty of the fact you don’t need to reference your insights, yet people don’t always let it in the same way they do with non-fiction. I think a lot of that has to do with how we view fiction in our society, where storytelling isn’t viewed as having the same spiritual or intellectual heft that we accord to non-fiction. I think that’s a bit of a shame because there is still a difference between empowered storytelling and less powerful types… though it would take something thesis length to actually unpack what I think that difference is.

Q: Which are your favourites of the non-fiction books you’ve written?

A: I find that a difficult question as, due to my situation, my focus is currently on the things I haven’t written yet. I’m inclined to say Standing and Not Falling simply for the fact I’ve had some really great feedback from that, where people have said it changed, or even saved, their lives. 

Q: Apart from reading your books, what advice would you offer someone who wanted to learn about traditional witchcraft and the other forms of spirituality that you write about?

A: Ideally I’d say to find a good solid working group who is open to adopting and training them. Knowing how rare such groups seem to be I’d say instead to really dedicate to a process. Even if it’s something really simple, show up for it with a full heart and work it through, even if it’s something as simple as placing symbols of the ideas and habits you want to leave behind in a bundle and dropping it next to a real hedge, and you do that every month for a year, or cleaning your nails of your old faith every night for a year. The spirits that govern witchcraft will pay more attention to your persistence with this than they will to anything half-hearted or half-finished. Also, dedication to something beyond the self is important too, and this sense of connection and service should ideally extend to both human and other-than-human community. 

Q: I read that you had an operation earlier this year. I wish you all the best for recovery. Do you mind me asking whether that has changed the way you view your spiritual path and the way you practice?

A: I’ve had four operations and radiation this year and I cannot over-emphasis how life-altering it has been. A risk to the function you discover you care about the most, and being four months off dying from said situation, is quite a sobering thing to go through. The meningioma that was removed from my skull was quite sizeable (about as big as a tennis ball) and has certainly changed my whole cognition. It’s probably too soon to say much about that, beyond that the experience has altered the way I perceive the world in substantial ways. I’m still settling in though as the first MRI to look at the spot and see what my brain’s doing in there now does not occur until September. Until then the whole thing will have to remain a dark and delightful mystery that I haven’t yet been able to fully unwrap. 

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: My novel ‘The Gusty Deep’ , an epic medieval folk horror offering exploring the life of the daughter of one of the Green Children of Woolpit and Robin Goodfellow will be published by Rebel Satori in September. I’m quite excited about that because it’s my first novel set in a different era. I wrote it to try to explore the place of the weird/wyrd and the queer people in other times. I also have a non-fiction witchcraft book cooking away. I’m trying to build up my physical strength to further our homestead so that we can improve our home for wayward witches and exiles down here in Van Diemen’s Land. 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to say?

A: I think witchcraft - or that queer business outside the perimeters of normal consciousness - has a lot to offer in this era of discontent and much-needed rebellion. Even for non-witches. I believe there is enough we can talk about despite privacy oaths to introduce some radical viewpoints. We don’t have to tame our ideas to talk on social media, or anywhere else, we can bring our strange along with us. Social media has its own magic that tends to push towards conflict, drama, and posing. As a sorcerer you don’t have to play along, you can do your own thing with this immense power. I really admire the practice of people like Bayo Akomolafe and Sophia Strand, to name two excellent writers who make the space their own. We have this access to a voice that shoots out around the world and so many people are on there bitching about how awful it is… Don’t play its game. Work within its magic with your own voice, give up caring what mediocre people think of you and use this free resource to say uncanny things. 

You can view A Deed Without a Name at Amazon. It is published by Moon Books.

Previous interview links

No comments: