FARRAR, Janet (1950- ) and Stewart (1916-2000)
The writings of English Witches Janet and Stewart Farrar have done much to explain modem Witchcraft to a curious public and to illuminate the Craft to its practitioners.
Both were Initiated by the flamboyant Alexander Sanders but were able to transcend the showmanship that surrounded Sanders and his Coven; they went on to form their own covens in England and Ireland. Their Craft has been called "reformed Alexandrian" and "post-Alexandrian," but the Farrars have steadfastly avoided applying a sectarian label to their approach to WICCA. They prefer to call themselves simply "Witches."
Janet Farrar was born Janet Owen in Clapton, London, on June 24, 1950. Her father, Ronald Owen, came from an English and Welsh background; her mother, Ivy (nee Craddock), was an immigrant Irishwoman. Both parents were hospital workers and followers of the Church of England. Ivy Owen died when Janet was five.
Janet attended Leyton Manor School in London and Royal Wanstead High School for Girls in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire. After graduation, she worked as a model and receptionist. In 1970 she was Initiated into Alex and Maxine Sanders's Coven, which led to her meeting Stewart Farrar the same year.
Stewart Farrar was born on June 28, 1916, in Highams Park, Essex. His father, Frank Farrar, an Englishman, worked as a bank official, and his mother, Agnes (nee Picken), a Scotswoman, worked as a schoolteacher. Stewart was raised a Christian Scientist, but by the time he turned 20, in 1936, he turned agnostic. He remained an agnostic until 1970, when he was Initiated into the Craft.
Stewart was educated at City of London School and University College, London, where he studied journalism. He served as president of the London University Journalism Union and as editor of London Union Magazine. He graduated in 1937.
In 1939 Stewart volunteered for the Army and became an instructor in Gunnery, Anti-Aircraft. He served until discharged in 1946 with the rank of major. Following military service, he worked until 1947 as a civilian public relations and press officer for the Control Commission for Germany.
In 1947 he embarked on a long and varied career as journalist, author and scriptwriter. From 1947 to 1950, he worked as sub-editor and then deputy night editor in the London office of Reuters, and from 1953 to 1954 as a reporter for the Communist Party's Daily Worker.
Disillusioned, he left it and the party in 1954. From 1956 to 1962, Stewart was a scriptwriter for Associated British-Pathe, where he worked on television documentaries and a feature film, and on television dramas for the company's associate, A.B.C. Television, now known as Thames Television. As a freelance writer, Stewart authored radio drama scripts for the British Broadcasting Corporation, short stories for magazines, and books. His first book, a detective novel, The Snake on 99, was published in 1958.
From 1969 to 1974 Stewart worked as a feature writer for the weekly Reveille, a job that led to his introduction to Witchcraft. Late in 1969 Stewart was sent to a press preview of the film Legend of the Witches. Alexander and Maxine Sanders, who had given technical advice for the film, were to be present, and Reveille was interested in a story.
Stewart was skeptical about Witchcraft but was impressed with Sanders upon meeting him. Sanders invited Stewart to attend a Witch's Initiation, which Stewart did, and found it both dignified and moving. He wrote a two-part feature for the magazine, which gained him Sanders's trust. Sanders told him the publisher of his biography, King of the Witches, was looking for an author to write another book on modern Witchcraft. Stewart got the contract for What Witches Do and began attending the Sanders's training classes.
At first, he was a sympathetic but skeptical outsider. What he learned, however, struck a personal chord, and on February 21, 1970, Maxine Sanders initiated him into the coven, where he met Janet Owen.
On December 22, Stewart and Janet left the Sanders's Coven to form their own in London. The Sanders' separated shortly after that; the last time Stewart and Janet ever saw Alex again was in 1971.
The same year, What Witches Do was published. Despite its inclusion of Sanders's fabricated stories about himself - and Stewart's assertion that Sanders ranked above Gerald B. Gardner and alongside Aleister Crowley and Eliphas Levi in terms of magical achievement - the book helped to establish Stewart as a clear voice in the Wiccan community.
Though Stewart later candidly admitted he had been too credulous and that he no longer put Sanders on the same or better footing with Crowley, Levi and Gardner, he refused to disparage "the 'enfant terrible' of British Witchcraft." Sanders, he said, nevertheless made a significant contribution to the Craft.
From 1970 to 1976 Stewart and Janet built up their Coven. On January 31, 1974, they were handfasted, with Stewart's two sons and two daughters from a previous marriage attending and participating in the ceremony. They were legally married in a civil ceremony on July 19, 1975. In 1974 Stewart left Reveille to work full-time as a freelance writer.
In 1976 the Farrars turned their coven over to Susan and David Buckingham and moved to Ireland, where they built up a new coven. Several Irish covens eventually hived off it. In 1988 they returned to Britain.
What Witches Do brought an unending stream of mail from persons seeking help in joining the Craft. After nine years of running a coven and being sought for advice, the Farrars jointly authored two books of ritual and nonritual material, Eight Sabbats for Witches (1981) and The Witches' Way (1984). In the United States the books were combined and published as A Witches Bible Compleat (1984). The books include rituals created by the Farrars plus a wealth of material relating to the religion of the Craft.
The Witches' Way provides the first thorough reconstruction of the evolution of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, as developed by Gardner and Doreen Valiente, and includes contributions from Valiente.
In contrast to the 21st century Wiccan Community where entire Books of Shadows are freely available on the Internet, like other Witches of the time who had written on the Craft, the Farrars were heavily criticized for revealing too much. They counter that the false secrecy mandated in the Craft leads inevitably to distorted information. They do not feel they have revealed essential secrets but merely clarified and illuminated material that already has reached the public.
The Farrars are also the coauthors of The Witches' Goddess (1987); Life & Times of a Modern Witch (1987); and The Witches' God (1989), a companion to The Witches' Goddess.
Stewart Farrar's other fiction works include two additional detective novels, Zero in the Gate (1960) and Death in the Wrong Bed (1963); a romance novel, Delphine, Be a Darling (1963); and seven occult novels: The Twelve Maidens (1974); The Serpent of Lilith (1976); The Dance of Blood (1977); The Sword of Orley (1977); Omega (1980); Forcible Entry (1986); and Backlash (1988).
Gavin Farrar died on February 7, 2000.
Janet Farrar married Gavin Bone, a long time associate and friend, and the two are still vvery active in the Pagan Community.
see also: BONE, Gavin
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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