Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
Pagan Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
(The Black Forest Circle and Seminary)
Written and compiled by George Knowles
Silver Ravenwolf is the founder and leader of the Black Forest Circle and Seminary, a pagan organization of Clans (covens) located across the United States and Canada. A prominent American author of numerous neo-pagan books and novels, and founder of the Wiccan/Pagan Press Alliance (WPPA), her books have been reviewed in such prestigious publications as the New York Times, Newsweek Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. As a teacher and lecturer she travels widely with her husband Mike (Mindwalker) and presents workshops at major events and festivals across the United States.
Born Jenine E. Trayer on the 11th September 1956, and raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Ravenwolf received her formal education from Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, and later in 1976 attended the Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC). According to one of her websites, Ravenwolf’s German ancestry can be traced to Black Forest area of Germany before the first of her family members, a George Becker, immigrated to America and settled in the Township of Paradise, Pennsylvania, in the 1700’s. George was a millwright by trade and fathered seven children, who later dispersed and settled in the areas of York, Adams, and Cumberland counties of Pennsylvania.
At the age of five, she claims to remember wondering why God was not a woman, or why he didn’t have a wife, and so began to question traditional Church beliefs. In her early teens she was given a deck of Tarot cards, a present from an older cousin, and some time later was accused of being a Witch by fundamentalist neighbours. Later at the age of seventeen her mother died of leukemia, and this together with the lack of support they received from the religious establishment, caused her to reject traditional religion and turn to studying metaphysics and alternative religions.
During the late 1970’s however, Pagan publishing was still in its infancy, and the market for real books about Paganism and Witchcraft was limited. One of the few books she found was “Diary of a Witch” (1969) by Sybil Leek. Through the early 1980’s and despite being an army mom raising four children (she married in 1981, and by 1986 had two daughters Falcon and Echo, and two sons Dragon and ????), she continued her researches and became directly involved in the Craft.
By 1983 as New Age Witchcraft and Paganism spread across the USA, there was a proliferation of poorly written amateur newsletters and magazines all focusing on similar aspects of the Craft. This was just before the popularity of home computers and Internet publishing changed the way we communicated. Seeing a need for writers, authors, editors and publishers to communicate with each other and share information, Ravenwolf founded the Wiccan/Pagan Press Alliance (WPPA) with a quarterly newsletter The Midnight Drive (later re-named Of Writers and Witches) as a networking vehicle to support it. In it she featured articles not just about Witchcraft, Paganism and current events, but focused on tips about writing, publishing and marketing, how to work with mainstream publishers and the media, and where and what publications were still available. In this way she was directly responsible for inspiring many of today’s top Pagan authors.
Eventually in 1989 she took her formal First Degree initiation with Lady Bried Foxsong of the Sacred Hart and completed her Third Degree in November of 1991. She is listed on the Rolls of the International Red Garters, and holds Third Degree status in the Temple of Hecate Triskele of the Caledonii Tradition. In 1996 she was elevated to Elder by Lord Serphant (deceased) of the Family of Serphant Stone at the Puff Gathering in North Carolina. She received a Second Elevation in the Druidic Order of the Divine Circle of the Sacred Grove in Arizona from Lady Jeanette Copeland and Lord Kalman Mannis, and was trained in Houngon Hoodoo by Ray Malbrough (an Author and initiate of Raymond Buckland). She has also received training from Preston Zerbe (deceased) in the Pennsylvania Dutch Pow-Wow Tradition. On the 17th March 2002 she earned a Coronation in Spiritualism and also holds Master Certificates in Reiki and Karuna-Ki. Her hearthstone coven is known as the Coven of the Omega Wolf, and she now also leads the Black Forest Circle and Seminary.
Ray Malbrough, Mike MindWalker, Ravenwolf and Raymond Buckland
The Black Forest Circle:
According to one of their websites, the Black Forest Circle, founded in 1993, is considered Euro-Wiccan and draws from her German heritage and training in the Gardnerian, Caledonii and Pow-Wow traditions. It also states that the Black Forest is not a social organization and that their training program is designed specifically for Wiccan Clergy; therefore it is not suitable for newcomers to the Craft. New members must have a minimum of one year’s prior experience in the Craft and be active in their local communities before being dedicated into a Black Forest Clan. Most Black Forest members are over the age of thirty-five and all are family-oriented. Many have been chosen by RavenWolf or her husband MindWalker during their travels across the United States.
Each Clan consists of both male and female members holding various grades or levels of experience:
Dedicants, or Gutuaters (new members).
First Degree, or Vates.
Second Degree, or Fildhe.
Third Degree, or Druidh.
Elder, or Arc Druidth
State "Clan Mother or Father"
Training for Dedicants is taught through a series of ten written lessons created by RavenWolf, with each level regulated by a list of guidelines, responsibilities and set goals to be accomplished before moving into the next level. First Degree members are allowed to teach Dedicants in informal study groups. Some study groups develop into new Clans, which are led by a High Priest, High Priestess or by both. Members who have achieved their Second Degree and passed an instructor’s examination, can petitioned the Clan Head to form a new Coven, but this needs to be approved by Ravenwolf. The Third Degree is only bequeathed to those who have completed all lessons, performed 100 hours of community service, and passed a monitored six-hour written examination. Successful Third Degree members are then bestowed with a legal Ordination Certificate and a Charter verifying their Clergy status in the State of Pennsylvania. To reach Ordination normally takes four to five years of intensive study.
Celebrations and Meetings:
The Black Forest, like most Pagans, celebrates the seasonal changes of the year, the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, the Winter and Summer Solstices, as well as Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnassadh and Samhain. At ceremonies such as Dedications, Initiations and Elevations, their traditional dress is a black robe tied with a coloured cord (silver, gold or black) designating the status of the member. All ritual aspects of ceremonies such as altar devotions, circle casting and quarter calls etc., are uniform throughout all Clans. A mandatory annual Grand Coven meeting is held during which each member has an equal vote in administrative decisions and important Clan issues.
The Black Forest Circle has a motto - We don’t hive -- we multiply!
Books and Criticism:
Ravenwolf has written 28 books: 20 non-fiction, 4 with Spanish titles, and another 4 as mystery novels. Her first book To Ride A Silver Broomstick (1993) was an instant best seller, selling over 300,000 copies, and today continues to be referenced by new and experienced practitioners. Her other best selling books include To Stir a Magick Cauldron (1995, sold 100,000 copies), Teen Witch (1998, sold 200,000 copies), and Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows (2003, sold 200,000 copies). Her latest book HedgeWitch (2008) also seems set to become a bestseller, but time will tell.
Sadly it needs to be mentioned that a couple of her books have engendered some serious criticism, namely To Ride a Silver Broomstick and Teen Witch. In both these books her writing style is variously described as arrogant, patronizing and condescending, while her historical content is condemned as inaccurate. She is also accused of rampant religious bigotry and a serious lack of morality (see sources below). Well if so, with accumulative sales of over 500,000 between them, many readers may not share this opinion.
Personally I only have a couple of her books in my own library, and most probably I shall not buy any more, for quite simply I have outgrown their basic level of teaching. Nevertheless after a review, I do find most of these criticisms to be trifling. Yes I have found a few historical inaccuracies, but then she is not an acclaimed academic, and I was not expecting to read a doctoral thesis. Yes, I find her tone is sometimes arrogant, patronizing and condescending, but then I deal with similar people each day, and it doesn’t mean I cannot learn from them. That she has a bias against Christianity is apparent, but such is her prerogative, and her comments causing into question morality, seem to me to have been made tongue-in-cheek.
How sad is it that someone who has dedicated her life to revealing the basic inner working of the Craft, as she perceives it, should have to suffer such snide criticisms when the sheer volume of useful information available through her books far outweigh such pettiness. Nobody is perfect, so to the critics I say - “grow up and behave” - there are much worse books to be had deserving such criticism and not the least as useful or as informative as those written by Ravenwolf.
Today with all her children grown up, Ravenwolf’s main interests include: Classical Astrology, Alternative Healing, Pow-Wow (Braucherei), History, Genealogy, Tai Chi, Photography, Acrylic painting, making candles, fine jewellery, oils, incense, knitting and crafty-crafts, for which she maintains an Ebay auction store at: http://www.stores.ebay.com/silverravenwolfdesigns She currently resides in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, from where she leads the Black Forest Circle and Seminary.
To Ride a Silver Broomstick: New Generation Witchcraft, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1993.
Beneath a Mountain Moon (novel), Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1995.
To Stir a Magick Cauldron: A Witch's Guide to Casting and Conjuring, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1995.
HexCraft: Dutch Country Pow-Wow Magick, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1995.
The Rune Mysteries, (With Nigel Jackson) Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1996, second edition, 1999.
Angels: Companions in Magick, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1996.
American Folk Magick: Charms, Spells, and Herbals, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1998.
Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation (young adult nonfiction), Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1998.
To Light a Sacred Flame: Practical Witchcraft for the Millennium, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1999.
Silver’s Spells for Prosperity, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1999.
Halloween: Customs, Recipes, Spells, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 1999.
Silver’s Spells for Protection, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2000.
Silver RavenWolf’s Teen Witch Kit: Everything You Need to Make Magick! (illustrated by Natasha Melhuish), Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2000.
Murder at Witches’ Bluff: A Novel of Suspense and Magick, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2000.
Silver’s Spells for Love, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2001.
Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation (young adult nonfiction), Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2003.
Silver's Spells for Abundance, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN) 2004.
A Witch’s Notebook: Lessons in Witchcraft, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN) 2005.
Mindlight: Secrets of Energy, Magick & Manifestation, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN) 2006.
HedgeWitch: Spells, Crafts & Rituals For Natural Magick, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN) 2008.
Hechizos Para El Amor
Hechizos Para la Prosperidad
Hechizos Para la Proteccion
Jovenes y Brujas: Un Manual Practico de Brujeria Para Jovenes
(The Witches Chiller Series)
Witches' Night Out, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2000.
Witches' Key to Terror, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2001.
Witches' Night of Fear, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2001.
Witches' Voodoo Moon, Llewellyn (St. Paul, MN), 2003.
(Celebrating Silver RavenWolf)
(Why We Despise Silver Ravenwolf)
(The Problem With Silver Ravenwolf)
Plus others too many to mention.
Written and compiled on the 09th April 2011 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Unicorn / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat / Rats / Unicorn
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda Metteyya / Allan Kardec (Spiritism) / Alphonsus de Spina / Amber K / Ann Moura / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Balthasar Bekker / Biddy Early / Barbara Vickers / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christopher Penczak / Christina Oakley Harrington / Cornelius Loos / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Donald Michael Kraig / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edain McCoy / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Heinrich Kramer / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Ivo Domínguez Jr. / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jean Bodin / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim - the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Lodovico Maria Sinistrari / Ludwig Lavater / Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Michael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" / Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Martin Antoine Del Rio / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Olivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Paul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school / Peter Binsfeld / Philip Heselton / Raven Grimassi / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Richard Baxter / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Rossell Hope Robbins / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / Walter Ernest Butler / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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