Pagan Paths: Feri (Paganism 101 Ch. 12)

Garden of Kama, 1914 - Byam Shaw

Feri (sometimes spelled Faery) is an American neopagan tradition. Like Traditional Wicca, Feri is an initiatory tradition but does not place any limitations on who can be initiated. Although the requirement for initiation makes this religion less easily accessible, Feri has had a huge influence on modern neopaganism, including influencing other (non-initiatory) traditions like Reclaiming. For that reason, I think it’s important that we discuss Feri as part of our ongoing exploration of modern paganism.

This post is not meant to be a complete introduction to Feri. Instead, my goal here is to give you a taste of what Feri practitioners believe and do, so you can decide for yourself if further research would be worth your time. In that spirit, I provide book recommendations at the end of this post.

History and Background

Feri was founded by Victor Anderson and his wife, Cora, in the United States in the 1960s. Like Gerald Gardner, Victor Anderson claimed not to have created his tradition, but to have been initiated into it and then later added to it. In Anderson’s case, he claimed to have been initiated into witchcraft by a faery when he was nine years old.

The Andersons called Feri “the Pictish Tradition” and claimed that it was originally the Craft of the “Little People” in Ireland and Scotland. Victor Anderson was also influenced by Vodou and Hawaiian indigenous spirituality, although his connections to these traditions (both of which are closed) is unclear. Some modern Feri practitioners have made efforts to distance their practice from these elements appropriated from closed cultures, but Feri remains a very eclectic tradition that encourages initiates to “use what works.” Because of this, no two Feri practices are exactly alike.

There is another, more mythologized account of the birth of Feri, shared by author and Feri warlock Storm Faerywolf in his book Betwixt & Between. (In this book, Faerywolf uses the spelling “Faery,” but he is a member of the tradition founded by the Andersons.) In this myth, a group of powerful spiritual beings known as the Watchers rebelled against a false god millennia ago and taught magic to mankind. These Watchers are the fae, and they intermarried with humans and are the origin of all magic traditions. As the story goes, it was one of these Watchers who initiated Victor Anderson into what would later become known as Feri.

Because Feri traces its origin back to these spiritual ancestors, initiation is an important part of the tradition. When someone is initiated, they are said to be made a part of this Feri lineage, similar to how newly baptized Christians are said to be made a part of Christ’s family. This means that, in order to truly practice Feri, you must find a Feri teacher to train and initiate you.

Over the decades since the Andersons founded their tradition, many different lineages of Feri have formed, each with their own unique approach. Some are more visible and more involved with the public, while others practice under strict secrecy. Many of the practices and beliefs that are common in modern Feri come from the Bloodrose lineage.

Core Beliefs and Values

In the words of Cora Anderson, “the Craft is about doing right by one another and loving everyone you see.” However, Feri does not have a universal moral code — there is no Feri equivalent to the Wiccan Rede. While love and kindness are highly valued, the Andersons did not differentiate between light and dark magic and encouraged their followers to use magic to defend themselves when necessary. (You may have noticed that, like in Wicca, magic is an integral part of Feri.)

The Feri Tradition teaches that every person has three souls, each with its own characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. These souls have different names in different lineages, but Faerywolf identifies them as the talker (the “mental soul” associated with the ego/personality), the fetch (the “animal soul” associated with the subconscious and the primal mind), and the holy daemon or god soul (the part of the self that comes directly from God Herself and is able to commune with gods and spirits as equals). Much of the work of Feri revolves around aligning these three souls into a fully realized whole.

Another important part of Feri philosophy is embodied by the symbols of the Iron and Pearl Pentacles.

Iron is a grounding metal, and contemplating the Iron Pentacle keeps practitioners grounded in their astral travel. Feri initiates not only invoke the Iron Pentacle, but seek to embody it by moving through each point on the pentacle and addressing any blocks or hangups in the associated area of their lives. The five points are sex, pride, self, power, and passion. When all five of these points are in balance, we are able to confidently and effectively work our magic in the world. For example, we should not be afraid of sex, but we shouldn’t be obsessed with it either; we should take pride in our accomplishments, but shouldn’t be too full of ourselves; you get the idea. An initiate who fully embodies the Iron Pentacle is fully centered in their own divine power, as well as their physical body.

The Pearl Pentacle is the compliment to the Iron Pentacle. While the Iron Pentacle is personal, the Pearl Pentacle is transpersonal — it represents the qualities needed to form healthy relationships with others. Some Feri practitioners believe that each point on the Pearl Pentacle represents the “higher form” of one of the points of the Iron Pentacle. In the words of Victor Anderson, “when taken together, the Iron and the Pearl embody the divine union that is necessary to fully awaken the awareness of our divine natures.”

The points of the Pearl Pentacle are: love (defined as a genuine desire for union; can be said to be the higher form of sex), law (as in, the natural laws that govern our universe and our actions; can be said to be the higher form of pride), knowledge (learning from lived experience; can be said to be the higher form of self), power (also a point on the Iron Pentacle — here, it refers to our ability to share power with others), and wisdom (the balance between logic and emotion, head and heart; can be said to be the higher form of passion). The way these points are taught, and their relationship to the Iron Pentacle, may be different in different Feri lineages.

Feri practitioners believe that, by embodying the Iron and Pearl Pentacles, they can achieve a state known as the Black Heart of Innocence, which is defined as “sexual innocence.” It can also be thought of as the innocent, untainted state of small children and animals. This is the natural state of human beings, before we are conditioned to be ashamed or afraid of our sexual impulses.

This brings us to a final point of Feri philosophy: in Feri sex is sacred, as it was through a sexual act that God Herself created the universe. As Faerywolf puts it, “sex is a sacrament in our tradition.” That doesn’t mean that all Feri rituals have a sexual component, but some of them might. Mostly, the sacredness of sex requires Feri practitioners to live in a healthy relationship with their nature as sexual beings.

Important Deities and Spirits

The central deity in Feri is called Star Goddess or simply God Herself. She is the androgynous source of all life, “having within Her all principles, powers, and potencies of Nature.” (Quote from The Heart of the Initiate by Victor and Cora Andersons.) Star Goddess is not only the source of the others Gods, but the source of all life, including humans.

According to the Feri creation myth, in the beginning, Star Goddess was alone in the cosmic void, until she came upon a reflection of her own light. She was so enamored that she made love to her own reflection, and from this act of self-pleasure gave birth to all things.

Star Goddess often appears as a black-skinned woman whose skin is dotted with stars. In ritual, she is often represented with a large black candle.

Nimüe is an aspect of Star Goddess, a maiden who represents the Black Heart of Innocence. She rules over new life, growth, and potential.

Nimüe may appear as a child or a young woman. She can be represented in ritual with flowers (especially pink or white flowers) or with a waxing crescent moon.

Mari is the Great Mother, Star Goddess as the embodiment of pure manifestation. She is associated with the earth, moon, sea, and sky — it is she who gives life and form to all things. The earth is said to be her body, and she is said to be “the spirit of every woman.”

Mari may appear a a pregnant woman. She can be represented in ritual with images of the earth, the moon, or of mothers.

The Hag, also known as the Crone, is the primal Dark Goddess and Queen of the Dead. She is the archetypal witch, but also a grandmother and wise woman. Some believe that it is to her we return when we die.

The Hag often appears as a wizened old woman. She can be represented in ritual with images of ravens and/or vultures, or with a silver sickle.

Star Goddess has two children and consorts, the Divine Twins. They are the personification of duality — light and dark, good and evil, spirit and matter, united in a balanced pair. They may appear as brother and sister, as two lovers of any combination of genders, or as mortal enemies.

The Twins may appear as the Scarlet Serpent and the Azure Dove, who represent the duality of fire/water and earth/air. In ritual, they are often represented with a matching set of candles, one red and one blue.

The Blue God, sometimes called the Peacock God, is born from the union of the Divine Twins — he contains within himself all duality and appears with a combination of male and female features. He is associated with the divine spark within all living things, including one of the three human souls, which Faerywolf calls the holy daemon. He is the god of opposites, and exists in a permanent liminal state. He contains within him both good and evil, beauty and darkness.

The Blue God may appear as a young, androgynous or hermaphroditic person with blue skin. In ritual, he is often represented with peacock feathers.

Krom, also known as the Horned God, is the god of fertility, light, and heat. He is sometimes described as the consort of the Goddess as Mari. He is God as father and lover and is overtly sexual in nature. He has solar associations, but is also the lord of the harvest.

Krom may appear as a man with the head of a stag, glowing with the sun’s warmth. He can be represented in ritual with images of stags, bulls, phalluses, or the sun.

The Arddu (pronounced “ar-THEE”) or the Dark God is described as the “crone aspect of the God.” He is the god of witches, the king of the dead, and the spirit of winter. It is said that when we die, we must confront the Arddu before we can return to the Hag.

The Arddu often appears as an old, androgynous man, with the head and legs of a goat and the wings of a bat. He can be represented in ritual with images of skulls and bones.

Deity in Feri is complex and fluid. All of the goddesses can be said to be different aspects of one Goddess, and all of the gods can be said to be different aspects of one God. Furthermore, all of the deities, both gods and goddesses, can be said to be extensions of Star Goddess. Victor Anderson believed that everything is connected and that the Gods exist within the Universe and the individual. As he said, “God is self, and self is God, and God is a person like myself.”

In addition to the deities, there are also spirits called Watchers and Guardians who play an important role in Feri. The Watchers are mysterious celestial entities, said to be the fathers of magic. Guardians are spirits associated with the elements, who are called on to guard the circle during ritual. Some Feri practitioners believe that the Guardians are Watchers, while others see them as two distinct groups of spirits.

Feri Practice

As stated earlier, much of the work of Feri involves embodying the Iron and Pearl Pentacle in order to return to the Black Heart of Innocence. This is done through ritual, meditation, ecstatic trance, art, energy work, and/or magic.

Feri is an ecstatic tradition, which means many of its rituals and practices revolve around achieving an ecstatic state. Ecstasy is sometimes defined as the state of being completely absorbed in the focus of your attention, and other times as the removal of the consciousness from normal functioning. In Feri, ecstasy is used as a tool for spiritual growth.

Astral travel also plays a role in Feri practice. A Feri practitioner may use trance states to leave their body and enter the spirit realm, where they can encounter the gods, Watchers, faeries, and other spirits firsthand. In some traditions, this travel forms the backbone of the practice.

Art and creative expression are other tools used for spiritual growth in Feri. Visual art and poetry in particular are often used to express spiritual concepts or to help the initiate process what they have learned. Victor Anderson was a known poet and published a collection of devotional poetry called Thorns of the Blood Rose — many later Feri practitioners have followed in his footsteps.

Feri is considered a magic tradition as well as a religion, and many Feri practitioners consider themselves witches or warlocks. Magic is seen as a way of directing the universal life energy that makes up all things, and is a natural extension of our divine power as each of us is a part of Star Goddess.

Like Wiccan rituals, Feri rituals sometimes begin with casting a circle and calling the quarters. However, Feri uses different language and gestures for the circle casting, with a greater focus on the earth and the circle as an extension of the Goddess’s body. While in Wicca, the circle is used for every ritual, in Feri it may only be used for some rites.

Further Reading

If you are interested in Feri, I recommend reading the book Betwixt & Between by Storm Faerywolf. This is an excellent introduction to the tradition, written by the founder of the BlueRose lineage. You may also be interested in reading the works of Victor and Cora Anderson — though Feri has changed a lot since it was founded, the Andersons’ teachings still lie at the core of the tradition.

Because Feri is an initiatory tradition, you can only go so far on study alone. Eventually, you will have to find a teacher to train and initiate you. Without this initiation, what you are doing is not, and cannot be, Feri. Thankfully, it is becoming ever easier to find online training, so you can walk the Feri path no matter where you live. The BlueRose lineage, which was founded by Storm Faerywolf, offers online training and initiation through The Mystic Dream Academy. Some other Feri teachers also have online offerings — look around on social media to see who is currently accepting students.

If you choose not to pursue initiation, you can still incorporate elements of Feri lore and philosophy into your practice, as long as you acknowledge that what you are doing is no longer Feri. In fact, many elements of Feri survive in other, related traditions such as Reclaiming, which we’ll discuss in the next installment of this series.

Resources:

  • The Heart of the Initiate by Victor and Cora Anderson
  • The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
  • Betwixt & Between by Storm Faerywolf
  • The official Feri Tradition website (feritradition.com)

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