Monday, 25 April 2011

Where are we now?

Part one.
As a very young clan we seem to need to review our knowledge and understanding very frequently. Although both of us had been working at 1734 for some time before the founding of the clan, the advent of the Clan of the Entangled Thicket changed everything and we had to consider far more seriously how we might pass on our knowledge to others, and indeed what knowledge we could pass on. Again and again we had to reach towards “beginner’s mind” in so many ways.
Jane: The question has arisen in my mind, and may have occurred to others, how has a tradition that had its roots in the inspirational teachings of Robert Cochrane, left these shores to take root in America, only to set seed once more in the UK. Have the teachings travelled safely? Are the tenets intact?
So what, first of all, is 1734? Joe said
1734 is a Craft tradition which I established in the United States during the late 1960's and early 1970's. In its essence, it contains the teachings given to me by three sources. The first of these is a person who I will call Sean, who was my first teacher and who grounded me in the oral traditions of his family. Later I engaged in correspondence with Roy Bowers (alias Robert Cochrane) who, with Sean's approval and guidance, supplemented those initial teachings. The third source of inspiration and personal guidance was Ruth Wynn-Owen, the matriarch of the Plant Bran. Sean provided the basis, Roy provided some magical and mystical clarification, and Ruth provided a seasonal construct.
Although the name I've used for this tradition, "1734", was inspired by Roy Bowers, he is not the founder of the 1734 tradition. Roy was knowingly teaching me that which would supplement the training that Sean had begun with me. Roy did not call his tradition "1734" but rather "The Clan of Tubal Cain" and although he used some elements from that tradition to illustrate some things to me, his intention was never to teach me that way but rather to help me to understand that which I already had. The Clan of Tubal Cain has a different orientation and practices, as it should.
What is now recorded history tells us that ‘In 1965 Joseph Wilson placed an advert in Pentagram (the official newsletter of the Witchcraft Research Association in the UK) for his own ‘witchcraft; publication, The Waxing Moon, Cochrane wrote to him and a correspondence ensued that became an important part of what was to become the 1734 tradition.’ (Stuart Inman The Cauldron May 2011) So historically we have glimpses into the development of a set of ideas which evolved from teachings developed from three sources.
I think that a major problem for some people approaching 1734 is that they ignore everything except the Cochrane material. This is a mistake as one is then forced into trying to decipher the material in the Letters as if it were the only source of knowledge and wisdom. Joe’s approach is much more to do with finding the right spiritual approach and then, properly grounded, one approached the Mysteries. The different keys to this, natural magic and spirituality, poetic understanding of the Mysteries, are found in each part of 1734 as Joe taught it at the end of his life.
We started with very little information in terms of a ‘how to’ guide, actual practices, so as the only known working group in the tradition is the UK we were left very much to work for ourselves, swimming within this stream. To us the 1734 tradition is a system of living organic insights which, as with anything alive, changes, and has changed, even as evident during the life of Joe Wilson, as his ritual form changed and evolved, and ours should continue to do so.
As previously indicated, a part of the teachings of 1734, blossomed from the branches of the root stock of the Robert Cochrane letters, which are grounded in a ‘poetic understanding’, which to us carries great weight and validity. And as members of this tradition, we feel wholeheartedly that; ‘The answers to all things are in the Air - Inspiration, and the Winds will bring you news and knowledge if you ask them properly. The Trees of the Wood will give you power, and the waters of the Sea will give you patience and omniscience, since the sea is the womb that contains a memory of all things.’ (Robert Cochrane)
So we have no hard and fast dogma that dictates rigid tenets, in fact we fly above necessary dogmatic instructions, hold fast to change, and goaded by the messages carried on the wind move ahead.
Don’t forget though that we have had a good deal of supplementary material through various sources that have helped us define our practice. The question at each stage has been to define what is right for us at this stage in our development. For instance, a document by Joe from the 1970s shows how Joe used elements of Wicca in his first formulation of 1734. It is clear to me that he meant it to be like a scaffolding, to be removed as the structure became more apparent, when the working methods unique to 1734 could emerge. Maybe he wasn’t clear about this in 1974, but he was by the late 90’s. His frequent complaint was that many people picked up on the form and did not attend to the spirit, thus reproducing 1734 as a sort of neo-wicca. Eventually, through discussions with Kaerwyn he saw that a strain of 1734 could develop legitimately through wicca-like forms as long as it held to the central principles of 1734, to its insights and perspectives, as long as it did not dictate an overall form to 1734.
In the UK we would not link ourselves with Wicca, however admitting that the boundary these days can be blurred. While one tendency of Wicca tends towards the “fluffy wicca-lite” others strain towards a more traditional and “shamanic” way of working. But wiccans and “traditionals” work in two very different ways. We do not work from A Book of Shadows, nor do we have clearly scripted rites. We don’t cast a circle, and don’t feel it is appropriate to protect ourselves from those with whom we are seeking an audience; in fact we encourage this communion, as a fitting part of a mystery tradition. However, as you say, in the States, some 1734 groups do adopt Wiccan practises, Wiccan influences and Wiccan ritual trappings; for our clan this is not the case, yet we extend brotherly contact as streams from a shared pool.
For me it seemed absolutely essential that I start by trying to understand the essence of 1734, then the form would be dictated by that essence. It does occur to me that somebody could watch us work and not be at all clear that we are doing such different things, the compass area is usually circular, even though it is a different concept, and approaching the wind gods no doubt would look a bit like summoning quarters. I think one needs to experience the difference from the inside in order to appreciate the difference. Some of our friends will certainly understand what I mean.
We do not reject Christianity per se, but acknowledge its influence on our path, and of course the influence of the land and its tribal deities on Christianity. Witchcraft can thrive in both a Pagan and a Christian society so it is perhaps best described as a-religious. We hold onto our heritage that permeates the hills, wood, and wild places here in the UK read and study all knowledge, and using this inheritance we also acknowledge that ’Experience is the only real teacher.’(Joe Wilson).
I agree. I don’t identify myself as either a Christian, nor as a pagan. For me 1734 is a spiritual path, but not a religion. I don’t see myself as a worshipper, I suppose I regard 1734 as more akin to a form of yoga.
Bear in mind that according to Robert Cochrane; During the persecution the adherents of the Mystery system went underground and joined forces with the aboriginal beliefs of the mass, and so became part of traditional Witchcraft. Centuries passed and the meaning behind much ritual was forgotten, or relegated to a superstitious observance to elemental Nature. Much of the old ritual that has survived became ossified and repeated by rote, rather than by understanding. Consequently it has become static and remote from its original purpose, which was to enlighten the follower spiritually. In what generally passes as Witchcraft today there is as much illusion and unresolved desire as there is in the outside world. In the closed circles of some covens there is greater bigotry and dogma than there is in many sections of the moribund Christian church. Many witches appear to have turned their backs upon the reality of the outside world and have been content to follow, parrot-fashion, rituals and beliefs that they know have little or no relationship with the twentieth century and its needs. There has been no cause for a fertility religion in Europe since the advent of the coultershare plough in the thirteenth century, the discovery of haymaking, selective breeding of animals, etc. To claim, as some witches do, that there is a greater need in the world for fertility of mind than before is understating general facts, since Western Europe morally and socially has advanced more without the Old Craft and its attendant superstitions than it ever did with them.’
‘The inherent philosophy of the Craft was always fluid, and fluid it must become again before it gasps its last breath under a heap of musty nonsense, half-baked theology and philosophy. Witches cannot retreat from the world any longer, there is no room for us in this society unless we have something valid to offer it, and participate in its social evolution.’ c) Pentagram, Issue #2, 1964. By Robert Cochrane


  1. This was very interesting to read. The question comes to mind, since the RC content is the only content that is available publicly, or at least on the web, as far as I know, how do we find the other parts so as not to only focus on that part? I suspect I've encountered pieces of the rest of 1734 through conversations with you two and others, but other people might not be that fortunate.

    ~Muninn's Kiss

  2. Hi there, thanks for the comment. Well, you are pretty much right on all those counts. I think that much of the rest of the information might be treated as private, even if it is not secret. The point is surely to establish some kind of outline that people might follow in their own way rather than simply copy what a group, coven or clan has established for themselves.

    Beyond that, there's the rest of Joe's writings to act as a pointer. Joe makes it quite clear how one should orient oneself and gives some clues as to how to proceed, then it is up to the seeker to decide where to go. They might be able to affiliate with a clan or prefer to work by themselves. (or indeed have to work by themselves for various reasons.

    It isn't that there's a load of secret information out there of course, some things require a bit of discretion and in our case, when we have had information from another source we feel very strongly about maintaining that discretion, but not to the point of being flamboyantly secretive as some people are!

    For Joe in any case the main thing was that by studying the material in Metista and then later Toteg Tribe you got the gist of what he'd been taught and could formulate it in your own way once that was understood.