Victor Henry Anderson
May 21, 1917|
Clayton, New Mexico
|Died||September 20, 2001(aged 84)|
|Occupation||Accordion player, poet|
|Spouse(s)||Cora Anderson (m.1944–2001)|
|Children||Victor Elon Anderson|
|Parent(s)||Hilbart Alexander Anderson; Mary Frances Anderson|
Victor Henry Anderson (May 21, 1917 – September 20, 2001) was an American poet who founded the Feri Tradition of contemporary Pagan witchcraft.
Born in Clayton, New Mexico, an accident early in life left him nearly blind. His family moved to Oregon, where (he later claimed) he was initiated into a tradition of witchcraft by an African woman. He later claimed to have joined a witches' group known as the Harpy Coven, and to have been instructed in Voodoo by Haitians based in southern Oregon.
In 1944, he married Cora Cremeans in Bend, Oregon, and inspired by the writings of English Wiccan Gerald Gardner they founded the Mahaelani Coven. From this they developed the Feri tradition, which was influenced by the Huna movement. One of their first initiates was Gwydion Pendderwen, who was a significant influence on the development of the tradition, and who introduced elements from Alexandrian Wicca in to it. Anderson earned a professional accordion player, although also wrote poetry for various American Pagan magazines. In 1970 he published his first book of poetry, Thorns of the Blood Rose, which contained devotional religious poetry dedicated to the Goddess.
Anderson was born on May 21, 1917 at the Buffalo Horn Ranch in Clayton, New Mexico. His parents were Hilbart Alexander Anderson (1883-1952) and Mary Frances Anderson (née Smith, 1886-1973). Anderson became almost completely blind when he was two years old, either because of an accident or untreated diabetes. By 1920, the family were living in Burkburnett, Wichita County, Texas, where a sister, Elsie Glenan Anderson, was born in February. Here, Hilbart worked as a floor worker on some of the many oil rigs in the town. From there they moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they were recorded as living in the 1923–24 directory, and where Anderson later claimed that he had made many friends among Mexican migrant children. Next they moved to Olustee, Oklahoma, where Hilbart's brother resided.
After several months in Oklahoma they proceeded to the area around Ashland, Oregon, where Anderson claimed to have befriended Hawaiian and Haitian migrant families who were working as fruit pickers. Anderson often claimed that he had been instructed in the magical practices of Hawaiian Kahuna and Voudoun. He claimed to have been instructed in Voodoo by Haitians who were working in southern Oregon. In Oregon, he attended a school for the blind, although was largely self-educated. The family moved around the state in the coming years; in August 1928 they were living in Pinehurst, where Hilbert was recorded as working as an engineer at a lumber mill in the 1930 census. By the 1940 census, the family were recorded as living in East Phoenix, Jackson county, Oregon, with Higbert adding that he had also been living there in 1935. At this point, Hilbert was working as a millwright and Mary as a trained nurse. In 1942 they were recorded as living in Ashland, and it was here that they attended the First Baptist Church, before relocating to Bend prior to 1944.
He claimed to be initiated into a tradition of witchcraft in 1926 by a woman "of the Fairy race", whom he elsewhere referred to as "a priestess from Africa." Anderson informed the journalist Margot Adler that when he was nine years old he encountered a small old woman sitting in the centre of a circle containing brass bowls of herbs. He alleged that he instinctively stripped naked and that she then sexually initiated him into a witchcraft tradition, during which he had a vision of a goddess and a horned god. After the vision, he claimed that they sat in the circle and she instructed him in the magical use of the various herbs, after which he was washed in butter, oil, and salt, before putting his clothes on and returning home. A woman who knew Anderson, Cornelia Benavidez, later stated that "He says that he became friends with a woman in the circus who was a fire dancer and when she got older worked the stands. She somehow joined the circus in South Africa and made her way to the US. When he first met her she was 60 years old and he was a nine year old boy. He knew her for 15 years". Researcher WIlliam Wallworth noted that a number of the circuses that performed in Oregon during the 1920s and 1930s had Africans in their travelling retinues.
The Harpy Coven: 1932–1943
Anderson claimed that in 1932 he was initiated into a witchcraft group in Ashland that he called the Harpy Coven, although remains the only source testifying to the group's existence. Research into the coven was later conducted by Valerie Voigt, the coordinator of the Pagan, Occult, and Witchcraft Special Interest Group of the U.S. branch of Mensa, who was also one of Anderson's students. According to her claims, the group were led by two figures, known as Maybelle "Cardea" Warren and Jerome Warren, with other members being Jim Murdoch, Patricia Fern, Tom C. ("Arven"), and Ruth D., the latter of whom was a preacher's wife. Most of them had been immigrants from the Southern states, mainly from Alabama. Having an emphasis on practical magic rather than worship, theology, ethics, or ritual, this coven were eclectic in their practices, mixing Huna with forms of American folk magic. She noted that they did not worship a goddess but held to a belief in a god who was opposed to the God of Christianity. They met together for both outdoor and indoor meetings, according to the phases of the moon. Anderson also claimed that on occasion, the coven used a naked woman as their altar. The coven had broken up after World War II broke out.
After the Pagan studies scholar Aidan A. Kelly published a summary of Voigt's research, Anderson released an open letter dated to August 21, 1991, refuting many of Kelly's claims and referring to it as "the stupid drivel of those who have only a shallow grasp of their alleged research." He stated that contrary to Kelly's assertions, the Harpy Coven had worshiped a goddess, who was known as Lilith, and that "we did not think of her as merely the Goddess, but as God Herself." He added that the coven also venerated a consort of the Goddess, who was known as Setan, but "although the Goddess tells us that away from the sweet influence of her love, he is the most terrible of all spirits, he is not the fallen angel or "Satan" of Christianity or Islam."
Kelly stated that the Harpy Coven might "have been self-trained or may have descended from an earlier person or group".
Later life: 1944–2001
Anderson met Cora Ann Cremeans in Bend, Oregon in 1944; they married three days later, on 3 May, claiming that they had encountered each other before on the astral realm. Born in Nyota, Alabama in January 1915, Cora had been exposed to magical practices from childhood; her Irish grandfather was a "root doctor" who was known among locals as the "druid". After their marriage, the Andersons claimed that one of their first acts was to erect an altar. The following year, a son was born, and they named him Elon after the Hebrew word for oak; Cora claimed that she had received the name in a dream. In 1948, the family moved to Niles, California, eventually purchasing a home in San Leandro. He earned his living as a musician, playing the accordion at events, while Cora worked as a hospital cook. It has been claimed that he could speak Hawaiian, Spanish, Creole, Greek, Italian, and Gothic. There, Anderson became a member of the Alameda Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and remain so for forty years.
In the mid-1950s Victor and Cora read Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today. Pagan studies scholar Chas S. Clifton has suggested that the Andersons used Gardner's work as a "style guide" for the development of their own Pagan witchcraft tradition. Similarly, Kelly stated that the Anderson's tradition "began to more and more resemble that of the Gardnerians" as the couple learned more about it and adopted elements from it. Anderson was in correspondence with the Italian-American Wiccan Leo Martello, who encouraged Anderson to found his own coven. The Andersons then founded a coven, naming it Mahaelani, after the Hawaiian word for the full moon. Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Andersons initiated a number of individuals into the coven. One of these was Gwydion Pendderwen, a friend of their son. Pendderwen contributed to the development of their Feri tradition, with some members of the lineage viewing him as its co-founder. Pendderwen noted that he had first met the family when, aged thirteen, he got into a fight with Victor Elon, although the two later became friends. In the early 1970s, the Andersons established a new coven with Pendderwen and his initiate, Alison Harlow. After Pendderwen married, his wife also joined this coven, although it disbanded in 1974.
Over the next four decades, the Andersons would initiate between twenty-five and thirty people into their tradition. He has been described as one of the "founding teachers" and the "seminal voice" of the Feri tradition. Early initiates alternately spelled the name of the tradition as "Fairy, Faery, or Faerie" although Anderson began using the spelling of "Feri" to differentiate it from other witchcraft traditions of the same name. Not all practitioners followed his example. In their writing, the Andersons mixed terminology adopted from Huna, Gardnerian Wicca, and Voodoo, believing that all reflected the same underlying magico-religious tradition. It drew heavily upon the huna system developed by Max Freedom Long. According to one Feri initiate, Corvia Blackthorn:
- "The Andersons' teaching method was very informal. There were no classes in an academic sense, only conversations and the occasional ritual, usually followed by a home-cooked meal. Discussions with Victor were non-linear and overflowing with information. Someone once aptly remarked that talking to Victor was like to trying to drink from a fire hose. Often the connecting threads and underlying patterns in the information didn't become apparent until later on. There was also a non-verbal component to Victor's teaching. He was a true shaman, and had the ability to shift the consciousness of his students on a level well below the surface of conversation."
According to Kelly:
- "Studying with Victor presented some unusual problems. He demanded as much respect as any working-class grandfather might. One could ask for clarification, but to even hint that one disagreed with him, or worse yet, to contradict him, would result in an immediate and permanent order to leave. One was tempted to ask such forbidden questions because Victor lived in mythic time and was totally uninterested in other people's concepts of logic or consistency... Another student told me that when Victor read a new book and believed it was true, then he considered it to have always been true and would rethink his history accordingly."
One of those initiated into the Anderson's Feri tradition was Starhawk, who incorporated ideas from the Feri tradition when creating Reclaiming. She also included aspects from it in her 1979 book, The Spiral Dance, including mention of the Iron and Pearl Pentagram and the three souls. Another prominent initiate was Gabriel Carillo (Caradoc ap Cador), who in the late 1970s developed a written body of Feri teachings, and began offering paid classes in the tradition in the 1980s, generating the Bloodrose lineage; doing so generated controversy among Feri initiates, with critics believing that it was morally wrong to charge for teaching.
Poetry and later life
In 1970 Anderson privately published Thorns of the Blood Rose, which contained poems that he had authored over the previous 25 years. He stated that "every poem is a love letter to the Goddess". In 1975, this book received the Clover International Poetry Competition Award, and in 1980 was republished by Pendderwen, who also put some of Anderson's poems to music for his own 1975 album, Songs for the Old Religion. Anderson also contributed work to Pagan magazines like Witch Eye, Green Egg, and Nemeton.
To honor her fiftieth wedding anniversary, Cora authored a book titled Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition. It has been termed "the definitive written work on Feri thealogy and thought." Anderson had assembled a group of poems to be published as a second book, released posthumously as Lilith's Garden in 2005. At the time of his death, he was still running his coven, Nostos or Blue Circle. He died at his home on September 20, 2001. He was survived by his wife, son, and various grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Anderson described Feri witchcraft as "a devotional science", and his wife called him "an Einstein of the occult". Adler noted that some of the "hallmarks" of the Feri tradition were its "shamanic practices and sexual mysticism". It only involved one initiation. There is no set book of liturgy in the tradition, with teachings being passed down orally.
- Thorns of the Blood Rose. Acorn Guild Press. 2003 [1970 (Cora Anderson)]. ISBN 978-0-9710050-3-7.
- Etheric Anatomy: The Three Selves and Astral Travel. Acorn Guild Press. 2004. ISBN 978-0-9710050-0-6. (with Cora Anderson)
- Lilith's Garden. Acorn Guild Press. 2005. ISBN 978-0-9710050-5-1.
- Rabinovitch 2002, p. 7; Blackthorn 2003; Kelly 2011, p. 41.
- Rabinovitch 2002, p. 7.
- Rabinovitch 2002, p. 7; Blackthorn 2003; Adler 2006, p. 75; Kelly 2011, p. 41.
- Wallworth 2015.
- Adler 2006, p. 122.
- Blackthorn 2003.
- Rabinovitch 2002, p. 7; Clifton 2006, p. 130.
- Rabinovitch 2002, p. 7.
- Adler 2006, p. 75.
- Adler 2006, pp. 75–76.
- Kelly 2007, p. 49.
- Clifton 2006, p. 129.
- Kelly 1991, p. 21; Kelly 2011, p. 42.
- Kelly 1991, p. 21; Kelly 2007, p. 50; Kelly 2011, p. 42.
- Kelly 2011, p. 42.
- Kelly 1991, p. 21; Kelly 2007, p. 50.
- Kelly 1991, p. 22; Kelly 2007, p. 50.
- Kelly 2011, p. 43.
- Anderson 1991.
- Rabinovitch 2002, p. 7; Blackthorn 2003.
- Rabinovitch 2002, pp. 7–8; Blackthorn 2003.
- Schutte 2002.
- Clifton 2006, p. 132.
- Clifton 2006, p. 130.
- Clifton 2006, p. 131.
- Clifton 2006, pp. 130–131.
- Kelly 2011, p. 41.
- Adler 2006, p. 124; Berger 2005, p. 38.
- Rabinovitch 2002, p. 7; Blackthorn 2003; Clifton 2006, p. 131.
- Schutte 2002; Rabinovitch 2002, p. 8.
- Adler 2006, p. 123.
- Anderson, Victor (1991). "Open Letter to Aidan Kelly and Llewellyn Publications". Lilith's Lantern. Archived from the original on 26 March 2015.
- Adler, Margot (2006). Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America (third ed.). London: Penguin.
- Berger, Helen A. (2005). "Witchcraft and Neopaganism". Witchcraft and Magic: Contemporary North America. Helen A. Berger (ed.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 28–54.
- Blackthorn, Corvia (2003). "The Feri Tradition: Vicia Line". The Witches' Voice. Archived from the original on 2 February 2015.
- Clifton, Chas S. (2006). Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Oxford and Lanham: AltaMira. ISBN 978-0-7591-0202-6.
- Kalessin (2001). "Victor H. Anderson". The Witches' Voice. Archived from the original on 26 March 2015.
- Kelly, Aidan A. (1991). Crafting the Art of Magic - Book I: A History of Modern Witchcraft, 1939–1964. St. Paul: Llewellyn. ISBN 978-0-875423-70-8.
- Kelly, Aidan A. (2007). Inventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New Religion. Loughborough, Leicestershire: Thoth Publications. ISBN 978-1-870450-58-4.
- Kelly, Aidan A. (2011). Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches: A Social History of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn. Tacoma: Hierophant Wordsmith Press. ISBN 978-1-460958-24-7.
- Rabinovitch, Shelley TSivia (2002). "Anderson, Victor H. (1917–2001)". In Shelley Rabinovitch and James Lewis. The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism. New York: Citadel Press. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-8065-2406-5.
- Schutte, Kelesyn (Winter 2002). "Victor H. Anderson: May 21, 1917 – September 20, 2001". Reclaiming Quarterly (85). Archived from the original on 19 February 2015. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- Wallworth, William (2015). "Victor Henry Anderson (1917–2001)". Deadfamilies.com. Archived from the original on 19 February 2015.
- Witchvox obituaries
- "Feri FAQ" by Valerie Walker
- "So, just what is the Feri tradition?" by Niklas Gander
- "The Faery Tradition" by Anna Korn