All about me
(Man in Black)
interview with Christopher Blackwell
- Yule 2013
original can be seen at: http://aren.org/newsletter/2013-yule/index.html
A friend of mine in Florida had found a Pagan website that interested her and it
was she who recommended that I get to know the owner George Knowles over in
England, UK. So I put him on my friends list and set out to learn a bit about
him and then asked to interview him. He thought about it for a bit because he
wasn't certain anyone would find him or his story interesting. Often that is a
sure sign of an interesting person and story. I asked him for an interview and
he was kind enough to take a chance on me.
Could you give a bit of background on yourself?
It would appear you did not start with much security in your life.
Thank you for your interest Christopher, I have to say I am
more accustomed to writing about other people than myself, so this is a bit like
getting a taste of my own medicine. So
okay, but it might get a little long-winded as I try to explain.
Let’s start with a brief bio; I shall then fill in with your questions:
I was born in Oldham, Lancashire, on the 24th July 1954.
I have an elder half-brother Stephen, a younger sister Linda and brother
Phillip. Sadly due to the
instability of the family unit (my father was an alcoholic, and my mother??), we
were deprived of a normal upbringing and raised in local childcare facilities.
As a family group of children we were further separated at an early age
when Linda and Phillip were placed into a foster home while Stephen and I
continued to be moved from one care home facility to another.
After the death of my mother in 1964 (a suicide, not that we knew it at the
time), for a short time Stephen and I were allowed to stay with our paternal grandmother
Annie Edwards (my mothers maiden name), and our mother’s sister and brother
Aunt Edith and Uncle Thomas. Sadly
within a year granny’s health began to deteriorate and she became bedridden,
as a result she was no longer able to look after us and we returned to another
care home facility.
Into our early teens, Stephen and I were sent to a foster home in Blackpool (the
famous holiday resort on the northwest coast of England).
However, by this time some serious differences had developed between us.
Stephen had a spiteful and vindictive streak about him and anything and
everything that went wrong (most times manufactured by him) was blamed on me.
Overtime we grew more and more incompatible until eventually I requested
a return to another care home facility back in Oldham to finish my early education without
I was educated initially at Werneth Junior School in Oldham, then at the
Claremont Boy’s School in Blackpool, and finished at the Blue Coat
Comprehensive School in Oldham, where I excelled in Music, Art and History.
Regrettably I choose to leave school as soon as I could (against all the
advice of my teachers) and sadly missed the opportunity for further
College/University education. My
main priority at that time was gaining independence from the local childcare
After leaving school at age 16, I returned to Blackpool and started work at a
popular Holiday Caravan Site called Newton Hall in Staining, Blackpool. The
position also came with accommodation, an old four-berth caravan complete with a
pull down double bed, and boy did I make use of it. This was in the late 1960’s early 1970’s, just about the
time of the Beatles break up. The
permissive society was still growing and the spirit of freedom was in the air.
The caravan site was very busy as people from all over England came to
Blackpool simply to have fun and let their hair down.
the day I would be driving around the site on a big old tractor, cutting grass,
fitting gas bottles and helping new arrivals with luggage.
In the evenings I also worked in the site Clubhouse waiting on tables and
serving drinks, after which the real fun started.
I had the facilities and there was no shortage of willing participants,
so over the next few years I took every opportunity to educate myself in manly
I entertained on stage and also
entertained the girls (circa 1972).
While life was great during this time I was still looking to better myself,
so in 1974, I decided on a career in the Army and joined the Regimental Band of
the 14th/20th King’s Hussars as a musician playing Cornet, Trumpet and
Euphonium. Joining the Army was the
best thing I could have done, for in a way it was like finding a real home, and
for the first time I had all the security, discipline and structure that had
thus far been missing in my life.
Apart from basic military training in Catterick, North Yorkshire, a brief
posting in Bovington, Dorset and a year long course at the Royal Military School
of Music – Kneller Hall in Twickenham, London, most of my service was spent in
Germany during which time in the band we toured all over Europe.
We also did two tours in Northern Ireland and two tours of Canada.
Kneller Hall, London
- Band in Germany -
President the Corporals Mess
On leaving the Army in 1985, I worked mainly as a Licensee and Manager of
Pubs, Clubs and Hotels. Then in
1989, I set myself up as a Driving Instructor operating as the Uxbridge School
of Motoring. All was good for a
while; I bought a mortgage on a one-bedroom flat (with it's own garage and
garden), joined a Freemasons lodge and was elected Vice-Chairman of the local
Royal British Legion. Sadly
however, due to an economic recession in 1993, I was forced to give up on my
mortgage and driving school, and lost everything.
Well to cut a long story short, in the end I gathered what few possessions I had
left (basically the clothes on my back), bought a small tent and together with
my dog Ben took a walk down the nearby Grand Union Canal headed north away from
My dog "Ben"
He had a peculiar "sticky-up-ear" which
enhanced his character and
"Ben" my dog had been
with me since 1989, my humble friend and companion. In all the time he was
with me, through all my up's and down's, we were
never apart. Sadly at 0400 am two days after Christmas
2001, I let him out into the garden and despite searches by myself, neighbours,
police and dog wardens, he has not been seen since. After 13 years in my
company he is sorely missed and in my thoughts often, though strangely whatever happened
or wherever he be, I feel sure he is well and being looked after.
Ben and I spent the next four or five weeks meandering along the
canal towpath until eventually we ended up in Tamworth, a small town to the
north of Birmingham. It was tough
going for a while as we had set out at the beginning of April just after the
Winter’s thaw and as the season transitioned into Spring. We had cold, cold nights and days of lashing rain, but at the
same time it was wonderful to experience and be able to appreciate nature coming
alive as the sun grew stronger and the days warmer and longer.
After reaching Tamworth I had enough money left to buy an old banger (a rusty old
Cortina estate) and make my way back to Blackpool.
There I found a cheap and dingy bed-sit (one room apartment) and signed
on the dole as unemployed (this really was my lowest point, I hated it).
Eventually I started work again, but as a basic barman on minimum wages. The struggle however was not quite over, for I have to say
that the taxman was particularly unforgiving and it took me another five years
to finally pay him off. Gradually I
was able to work my way up again and returned back south as the Club Steward at
a prominent public Golf Course in Berkshire.
In year 2000 fed up with the fickle nature of the general public I left the
License Trade and took up employment within the Security Industry, which is
where I am currently employed. This
move allowed me the solitude and time to concentrate on my new interests,
writing and the history of Paganism, Witchcraft and the Occult.
Okay, that’s my bio so far, so over to you Christopher.
When did you become curious about magic?
I think I have always been interested in magic, or more
particularly folklore. From an
early age I was always treated slightly different from other children in the
care homes we frequented, more like I was some kind of special fair-haired
sunshine child. I was always happy
and go lucky, but also sensitive to the difficulties other people might be
experiencing. I also had the
ability to make people smile despite their hardships (I now know this ability to
be called empathy). On reflection,
this special attention was perhaps the root cause of my brother Stephen’s
antagonism toward me??
There was one incident during my childhood which has always stayed with me.
It happened during my stay with granny Edwards.
While nothing was ever said or overtly passed on and taught, I just knew
that granny was old school. I had
arrived home early from school one day and there was a car parked outside the
house. This was most unusual for
ours was a very poor neighbourhood and nobody owned a car.
Inside granny and aunt Edith was sat around the coffee table in front of
a roaring coal fire serving tea and biscuits in their best crockery (reserved
only for very special occasions). They
were entertaining a posh Lady, or so she appeared to be by our standards.
Anyway, as I entered she up-ended her cup on a saucer and then asked me to read
the tea-leafs. I cannot recall what
I read or saw, or what was said later, just that it was a test of some kind?
I was more interested in going out to play, but I have always been
curious about who that posh Lady was? Now
knowing some of the history of contemporary Witchcraft, I am guessing she could
have been Patricia Crowther?? She
was prominent in the media at that time and lived in Sheffield, which is not
that far away from Oldham??
When did you develop an interest in the Freemasonry?
In 1989 after I became a driving instructor, sociably I was also
a member of the local Royal British Legion club in Denham, near Uxbridge where I
lived. As an active member of the club committee a number of my
acquaintances were also Freemasons about which I had always been curious.
While I was not remotely interested in religion, the concept of a
“Supreme Being” as apposed to specific deities (i.e.. God and Jesus)
resonated. Their lodge name also seemed most appropriate:
“The Hope and Opportunity Lodge No. 9160. London”, so I asked to
After being introduced to other lodge members socially, interviewed for
suitability by the lodge committee, and then duly balloted by all members, I was
formally initiated into the “Entered Apprentice” grade on the 24th January
1991. Six months later I was passed
into the “Fellowcraft grade”, and then on the 02nd November 1992, I had the
honour to be raised to “Master Mason” during a special ceremony held at
Freemasons’ Hall, the spectacular headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of
England located in Great Queen St, Central London.
- The Grand Temple
While attending the weekly lodge of instruction, I quickly
learned that Freemasonry was not really about religion, but more about teaching
a moral and ethical approach to life based on self-respect, integrity, honesty
and equality regardless of race, colour or creed, while at the same time
promoting world peace and charity. Today
I am a lapsed member, but I still strive to honour all these values.
Freemasonry was also my first introduction into occult philosophy and
did you develop an interest in Wicca?
came much later. I knew a little
about it through reading, but it was not until I returned south in 1998 that I
was able to dig into it properly. While
still in Blackpool and during the brief time I spent on the dole with nothing
much to do, I was a frequent visitor at the central library.
Initially I had been researching the history of Freemasonry, which lead me into
other magical and mystical groups such as the “Hermetic Order of the Golden
Dawn”, Blavatsky’s “Theosophical Society”, “Rosicrucianism”, and
Aleister Crowley’s “Ordo Temple Orientis” (the OTO), but all this was a
bit highbrow and intellectual for me.
I then began delving into Paganism and Witchcraft, which didn’t require
a PhD degree to understand, but it seemed the subject had had a bad press for
much of what I read was controversial and detrimental.
I determined then to have another look at it as and when I was able.
and why did you start Controverscial.Com?
was rather late catching up with technology so it wasn’t until 1999 after I
had got my life back on track that I was finally able to buy a computer and
teach myself to use it.
It was then I was able to really start researching Paganism and
I have to say that my initial findings were indeed controversial,
particularly the early "Witch Hunts" of the 15th-18th centuries, when
to be labeled a Witch was tantamount to receiving the death penalty. What
really surprised me was to find that some of the same beliefs and disinformation
as used then was still being applied to its contemporary form in the 19th
century, none of which seemed credible.
As I delved deeper so I began writing about it and created my own website:
Religion down through the ages has always caused controversy, and no less
so in this day and age, so it seemed like an appropriate name.
You will notice the incorrect spelling, well that is no mistake, quite
simply somebody was already using the correct spelling, so I added the letter
"c" after the "s" to make it sound a like.
I am fortunate also to be based in Reading, near London, as most of the UK’s major
Pagan sites are within easy reach of me. Avebury
and Stonehenge are just down the road (30 miles or so), while Glastonbury and
the New Forrest are only a couple of hours drive away.
London of course is home to the famous Atlantis Book Shop and popular
Treadwell’s Book Shop, each of which sponsors weekly events and lectures.
The Pagan Federation UK and the Centre of Pagan Studies also hold events
in and around London, and of course the UK’s largest annual Pagan event
“Witchfest” is held each year in Croydon, South London.
As well buying books and researching online, I was therefore able to get
out and about into the community to meet and communicate with real people who
genuinely live the life and walk the talk.
While most active working covens tend to be a closed shop and exclusive,
most also hold open public circles that the curious can attend.
Most also meet socially once or twice a month (called moots) in local
pubs or other venues. To find someone near you or a practicing local group go to:
Don’t you also have an e-mail discussion group?
What is it about and how can people become part of it?
Yes I do its called “Email Witches” and can be found
I started this shortly after setting up my main website.
I was receiving so many emails asking questions and seeking advice that I
was literally getting swamped, so I needed a place were people of all levels of
experience and knowledge could find and help each other.
As the description say’s: “Email
Witches is a pagan friendly group attracting people from all walks of life, from
all spectrums of society and from all around the world.
Most are individuals seeking a personal practical religion that can be
adapted to their own needs and criteria, and Wicca/Witchcraft is a wonderfully diverse
religion that meets these needs. Email
Witches is set up as a place where those of the same interest can meet, discuss,
share and gain more information about their chosen paths. ”Given the popularity of Facebook a few years ago, this was pretty much
I am thankful that some of my earliest members are still with me, and some
continue as moderators in the group today.
Many of our early members were based in the USA, and so as my life and
financial situation improved, I started visiting the US on holidays attending
various conferences and events, and sometimes meeting up with group members.
One memorable occasion happened in October 2007, when we organized an EW
group meeting in Salem, Massachusetts, to attend the Official Witches Halloween
Ball. What great week that was!!
We had another meet up in 2008 at the Earth Warriors Festival in Ohio.
The Official Witches Halloween Ball meeting in
would you describe your path now?
pretty much a solitary and eclectic practitioner with a leaning towards Druidry
and Shamanism. I’m not so much
into deities (Gods and Goddesses) although I do like the mythologies, I feel more attuned to nature and the
elements. I revere our ancestors as
the font of all knowledge, much of which can be gleaned and researched in the
great libraries of the world, or if mentally attuned, from the Akashic Records
of the Universal Collective Consciousness.
I also believe that wisdom is only gained through trial, error and
experience. I’m still a skeptic however as my researches continue, so I do my own thing working quietly from my
caravan/trailer home I call ‘Pagan Place’.
I notice that
you have posted a number of biographies this month. Could you tell us a bit of why you chose those particular
While Paganism and
Witchcraft has its roots in ancient times, today it is a rapidly growing
contemporary religion invented during the 19th century, but as with any new
movement or religion its rise and success depended on certain individuals and personalities,
those people whose courage, vision and determination helped to create the basic
foundations from which growth could begin.
As well as such prominent forerunners as Gerald B. Gardner, Alex Sanders
and Robert Cochrane, there are many lesser known unsung heroes whose contributions
behind the scenes made their visions work.
If we take 1951 and the repeal of the last antiquated witchcraft laws still
being enforced in England as a starting point, many of those who led the way
forward are now either elderly or have already passed on.
I think it is important therefore that their names, contributions and
legacies should be recorded and not left to be forgotten.
To this end I am trying to create a “Who’s Who of Paganism and
Witchcraft past and present”.
So far I have compiled about 100 bios, but it is slow going and my time to write
and research is obviously limited. So
I would invite any interested readers and writers to contribute and add to my
What are some
of the other types of information that you have on your website?
There is a whole
slew of information on my website most of which I have written and compiled
myself over the years, as well as articles contributed by friends and members of
my yahoo group “Email Witches” mentioned above.
Primarily it is aimed at newcomers to the craft, and includes:
Traditional Writings, descriptions of various Paths & Traditions, basic
Correspondence Tables, the Sabbats and Esbat celebrations, Tools of the Craft, Rocks and
Stones, Sacred Trees, Animals (The
Witches Familiar), Sacred Sites, and much more while not forgetting the
“Who’s Who” of biographies, so there is something for everyone.
you have a Facebook page as well?
I do and it can be found here at: https://www.facebook.com/george.knowles.750
there anything else that you would like to tell our readers about?
Yes, I have a
recently started a new on-going project. For
the past several years now I have been living on a privately owned 9 Hole Golf
Course called the “Wessex Downs Golf Course” (in a caravan).
Situated in the beautiful countryside near Beenham, Reading in Berkshire,
this parkland course is surrounded with forested trees of all descriptions and
offers fantastic views of the Kennet and Avon valley.
I cannot adequately describe the quiet beauty, peace and serenity that
one feels here, for it needs to be experienced to be appreciated.
But there is one particular place here (as I play a-round of golf), which
I consider to be “Sacred Space”. It
is a naturally formed semi-enclosed grove (just off the fairway where it won’t
interfere with Golfers), and where I have found the energy of the elements can
be felt and visualized as the winds speak and rustle through the surrounding
is the caravan -
The Grove, guarded by a skeleton Oak tree
spoken to the family landowners (my landlord, neighbour and close friend for the
last decade), and he knowing of my Pagan persuasion, he has agreed and given his
consent for me to develop the grove as “Sacred Space”.
We have some genuine old “York Stone” slabs that we will use to
create a stone Circle within the grove, which will also have a central fire-pit
to contain a sacred fire. Naturally it will be nothing on the scale of Avebury or
Stonehenge, but I hopes in time it will become Reading’s preferred “Pagan
Place” and used by local covens for regular practice and perhaps later for
open Sabbat rituals.
Finally and to finish this interview on a happy note, in 2010
through a contact on Facebook, and after a separation of some 40 years, I was
reunited my sister Linda and brother Philip.
We now meet and visit each other regularly.
How cool is that!!
Happy reunion at the Pub/B&B in
Yule is now upon us, so may I wish everyone a happy Winter
Solstice, and may next year be better than the last. Thanks for listening.
Best Wishes and Blessed Be.