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An Interview with Raymond Buckland

1. You’ve been involved in metaphysics for decades, and you’re considered to be one of the most important authors in Wiccan literature today. What initially inspired you to be a writer?

My father was my inspiration for writing, and his brother, my uncle, my inspiration for metaphysics. As a child—well, ten or eleven—I would go with my father to a couple of different writers’ groups of which he was president. I’d sit and listen to the writers critiquing one another’s work. On the way home, my father and I would then go over what had been said. Ronny Chetwynd-Hayes, Britain’s top horror writer (their Stephen King), came out of one of those groups. When my father was at work, I would use his typewriter to type my own stories. My mother made me swear I’d leave it exactly asI found it, but he always knew when I’d been using it. My Uncle George loaned me a book on Spiritualism, which I devoured (I was always a voracious reader), and went back for more. When I’d read all he had, I went to the public library and worked my way along the shelves, from Spiritualism to ghosts, ESP, magic, Witchcraft, and so on. Many years later, when I started to write professionally, I remembered my father’s words “it pays to specialize,” so I decided to specialize in the occult.

2. Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft is far more widely-known than your other books. Do you feel that it unfairly overshadows your other works, or do you think it deserves to be recognized more than the rest?

I think it’s simply a reflection on the popularity of Witchcraft (Wicca) rather than on my writing. And actually, my old Practical Candleburning Rituals has sold about the same number of copies anyway! But it all gives me a goal to meet. I’m hoping my new Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications will do as well.

3. Who had the greatest influence on your metaphysical journey?

After Uncle George, mentioned above, it has to be Gerald Gardner . His writing inspired me to become involved with Wicca, and his interests and his museum inspired me to emulate him along those lines.

4. How do you feel about solitary versus group practitioners, and formal initiations versus informal, or self-initiations?

I don’t think the word “versus” has a place in there. It implies that it’s one against the other. It’s not. Both are equally valid. As it happens, Solitary Witchcraft is far older than Coven Witchcraft, but the latter has become more of a standard since the revival of the Old Religion. How did the first Witch get initiated? Obviously it had to be a self-initiation. Initiations are basically dedications of the self to the gods. So long as that dedication is sincere, it doesn’t matter whether it’s done in a coven setting or with only the gods themselves as witnesses. In my very early writings I was guilty of assuming that covens were the only true Craft, but I didn’t know any better in those days. Now I do. So let’s stop pitting one form of Witchcraft against another and concentrate on what is the main point of the religion: love for all things. We are a religion of equality and tolerance. Let’s see some of it.

5. Some people expend a lot of energy on understanding the historical background of Witchcraft, while others pay attention only to its present incarnation. How important do you think knowledge of the historical roots of Witchcraft is?

I do think it’s important, and I think it benefits all Witches to have a general knowledge, at least, of what brought us to where we are today. But the extent to which you need to immerse yourself in that history becomes a personal thing. Some people are turned off by history (even though it’s not necessarily “dry old history!”) while others really enjoy it. In my school days, I was not keen on history, but since then I’ve learned to really enjoy it. So I don’t think the history of the Craft needs to be force-fed to all, but I definitely think all need to have some general knowledge of it. And when it comes down to it, Wicca is a living religion and it’s what its practice means to you that’s the important thing.

6. How do you think Witchcraft has changed in the time you have been involved in it?

The main change has been the tremendous advances it has made in terms of public acceptance. From a few solitary groups meeting in secret in homes and apartments, it has come to be a religion that is touted in hotel conference centers and huge campgrounds. Witches serve on interfaith committees and speak at international religious conferences. Wiccan priests and priestesses are able to work with prisons and hospitals. The religion is acknowledged by the armed services. It is becoming—dare I use the phrase?—mainstream! Although there’s still quite a way to go (especially to overcome the bickering amongst ourselves), it is gradually getting to the point where it is being accepted as “just another religion.” That’s something a lot of us have been working for a very long time to achieve. We’ve endured the persecutions and we’ve re-emerged to grow to where we are today. We need to stand up for our rights and to spread love and harmony with all of nature.

7. What do you feel your greatest accomplishment has been as a writer?

To be read. Seriously, I think I have been especially blessed. I love to write and will always do so. I enjoy teaching, so my writing is usually of that type. The fact that these days I am approached by publishers who want me to write for them, instead of having to run around looking and hoping for a publisher—any publisher!—is a blessing, and a great accomplishment, for which I thank the gods.

8. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the Craft?

Be honest, with yourself and with others. Be sincere in your belief in the gods. Be tolerant. There are many paths, all of which lead to the same center. No one tradition of Wicca is more correct, more “authentic,” more ancient, than another. You do your thing, and allow others to do theirs.And don’t come into Wicca just because you think it will be a neat way to learn to do spells. If magic is what you want, you don’t need the Craft.

9. Aside from writing, what are some pastimes you enjoy?

I used to fly ultralight aircraft, but these days I have switched my emphasis to cars, mostly unusual vehicles, with emphasis on 3-wheeled cars. I have taught myself to weld, and actually build some of my weird designs. Also (although it’s writing still), I love writing fiction, and am presently deep into a Tolkienesque fantasy novel. I’m also very much into music. Back when I lived in England, I had a jazz band (New Orleans style) which played regularly at the Picadilly Jazz Club and elsewhere. A few years ago, my wife Tara and I bought an expensive piano (Roland KR77) that also carries nearly 400 different instrument sounds and has a built-in 16-track recorder. On this, I started to reconstruct my old band, playing all the different instruments and putting them together. This worked well, and inspired me to go on and record a lot of Ragtime (a big love of mine). I created the Crescent City Ragtime Orchestra, and not only played all the instruments, but also arranged and orchestrated the music. I have one CD out and two more about to be released. Tara plays music; I say that I “construct” music. It’s lots of fun!

10. How do you feel about the negative stereotypes of Wiccans and pagans that are commonly found in society? What can, or should, the community do to change those negative associations?

Educate. Approach whomever is responsible for what is being presented and try to correct their perspective. There’s never any need to get into a shouting match, but if you can show that presenting the stereotypes is a display of ignorance, it can help.

11. You have a lot of fans—people who are extremely grateful to you for the writing and work that you have done. What would you like to say to them?
I would like, very sincerely, to thank them for reading my work. It does no good for me to write if it’s not being read. If I have a lot of fans, it’s obviously because I’ve been touching some chords. Those chords are of the Old Religion, and that is what is popular. I’m just an instrument to bring the information forward. But thank you—a big thank you.

12. What projects are you currently working on?

I have just finished up Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications , which I am very excited about. It completes the circle, taking me back to my Spiritualist beginnings. Also, Lissanne Lake and I are working on a new tarot deck that we think will be appreciated. Sometime next year I have to get back to an advanced Wicca book I’ve had to put on the back burner a couple of times. And I am now working on my fantasy novel and hope to have that finished by the end of the year.

About Raymond Buckland

Raymond Buckland was actively involved in metaphysics and the occult for fifty years. He was the author of more than sixty books, including such best-selling titles as Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft, Gypsy Dream ...

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