Rhea: Do you work with almost exclusively initiates, or do you work with non-initiates as well?

Janet: Both. It just depends on any given situation.

Stewart: We play it by ear. We don't have any hard and fast rules. And we're far less rank-conscious than some over here. I mean, we have heard in one State "your Third Degree is only the equivalent to our Second Degree". Nonsense. To us, a Degree is an acknowledgement that you have reached a stage of experience and wisdom where you are capable of helping and encouraging and guiding people of less experience - and that is all. It isn't a stripe on your arm or a bar on your shoulder entitling you to order them about. When we feel someone has reached that stage, then we know what to do.

Rhea: There are lots of in-depth conversations that happen with people about the meaning of the Great Rite: Can two men do it together? Can two women do it together? I'm encapsulating some of the questions asked. They'll extract it and argue that it's a sex magic thing and that anyone can do sex magic. Does this take it outside its original context? What do you feel the Great Rite is?

Stewart: I think it is a ritual bringing together the male and female principles. If it's done in actuality, it can be called sex magic; if it's done in token, it can be called gender magic. But it is the relating of the God and Goddess principles through human representatives.

Janet: I would say I'd almost find a new name for it in a sense. There is the Great Rite, which is the act which can produce the physical manifestation of a child. That is the Great Rite - which means that only a man and woman can do it. But, on the other hand, I would say that there is a rite which I wouldn't care to put a name on which can be performed by women and women, men and men, men and women, in such a way as would not be able to create a physical child, which ought to be given an equally wonderful name. And if that could be done, we could say, okay, this couple are going to perform the Great Rite or this couple are going to perform "X" Rite, whatever the name was.

Rhea: That's not dissimilar to a view I expressed that you wouldn't go around saying that any banishing ritual that someone did was The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. You would find another name for the banishing ritual if you were going to do something else.

Stewart: When we cast the circle, we have been in the habit of using the word banishing but it doesn't mean that rite.

Rhea: That's one of the most difficult things in the English language: similar terms don't mean the same thing at all, even within general conversation, let alone a magical context.

Stewart: We've learned over here not to say "I'm dying for a fag" when we want a cigarette!

Janet: Or "I'm completely stuffed".

Stewart: Or if you've done something in pencil you want to get rid of, you do not ask for "a rubber" as you would in Europe, and so on.

Rhea: What have you found that you liked most about American Paganism during this tour? And what did you like least?

Janet: What I liked least was the bitching and back-biting, and the lack of responsibility sometimes to stand up and face a situation that needs dealing with. "I don't want to get involved", in other words. There are times when you have to get involved, and that doesn't mean you jump in the deep end. You get together a group of responsible people and look at what you're facing, how it should be dealt with, and what should we do, What I like the most is the willingness to take it a step forward.

Stewart: The enthusiasm. And I also admire how in some States they are managing to get together in spite of their differences and realise that they're all working for the same principle. Certainly in Washington, Oregon and Colorado, certainly the Heartland people in Missouri, of Georgia and Maryland. I think this is progressing. This is working and is gathering people together and they can realise that their different methods or procedures are far less important than the fact that they belong to one movement of the spirit.

Rhea: Here in Washington, there are a number of different communities that have strong ties with each other, and it makes possible things like the Cantata - a co-operation of lots of different groups.

Stewart: And I think that young man will grow a lot. It will be a fabulous thing to have Pagan music. I've always felt that the Christians are lucky to have centuries of marvelous music. A wonderful thing. Thing's like Handel's Messiah. And I've wondered when we were going to get around to that. It seems to have started. Another thing I admire about American Paganism is that it is streets ahead of Europeans in the use of chant and music in ritual. We've been to a lot of circles where chanting is part of the casting, part of almost every stage, and we admire that. We hope that Europe can learn from it.

Rhea: You must have seen a lot of changes in the Craft in England over the past twenty years.

Stewart: Yes, well, one thing is the explosion of literature. There was a time when there were basically only Gardner's three books - the novel, High Magic's Aid, and the two nonfiction. And then, as it gradually became more public, more and more books and newsletters and so on were produced, until the thing was flung into the marketplace.

Rhea: What Witches Do became a watershed in Australia. It had a significant amount of influence on Craft around the country because it came into the country very early. And it - together with Lady Sheba's Book of Shadows - formed the basis of many groups' practices. Speaking of your books, in your novels, Stewart, you often use the device of good and evil to set up the tension in the book. Is this a literary metaphor or do you see that notions of good and evil do play a role in the Craft?

Stewart: Well, evil to me isn't a separate entity. It is simply a state of unbalance to be corrected. I think dualism has harmed and hampered many religions where spirit is good and matter is evil, and these two in eternal opposition. To us, all the levels of reality are equally holy. They are all a part of the cosmic manifestation, to be treated with respect. All the levels. And evolution is happening all the time on all those levels, and it sometimes happens so busily and so fast in such a complex way that things get out of balance. And, to me, that is what evil is. It is an imbalance to be corrected. It is not an independent entity.

Rhea: What is the focus of the next book? Is it just the range of things you've seen in America?

Stewart: I think it will be, partly. It's two Europeans visiting, crossing the Atlantic for the first time. So some of it will be impressions of a new experience, but it will be basically about the impressions of Paganism in America.

Janet: How they work, their rituals, their co-operation.

Stewart: Because we live in Ireland and we're only in Britain when the publisher gets us over for a book signing basically, what we're hoping to do is mainly to organise a little tour of Britain and tell them all about America. And we hope on the way to get better informed about the state of pay in Britain.

Rhea: Finally, how do you tell whether someone is of the Craft? What criteria do you use?

Janet: You just know. You know whether they're Craft. Watch how they behave, how they approach situations. They have an essence that radiates from them. And I would say since we've been in the United States, we have met more Pagans than Craft, travelling right across the countryside.

Stewart: This is not a criticism. It is a healthy situation, because the growing Paganism provides the grass-roots of the Craft. It would be over-simplifying to say that the craft is the priesthood of Paganism, but there is certainly a grain of truth in it. [For] Pagans who want to practise more coherently or to understand more coherently, it offers a wonderful system.

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October 4, 2001
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