An interview with our latest author, Yvonne Aburrow, whose new book, Dark Mirror: the Inner Work of Witchcraft is available for pre-order from the Doreen Valiente Foundation online shop.
Emlyn: What inspired you to write these second editions of your earlier works?
Yvonne: I had written more articles in the same vein as the books and wanted to add them to the existing material. It turned out that I had more to say about the inner work of ritual, embodied spirituality, group dynamics, social justice, and coven leadership.
The thing that got me to write the books in the first place was that I went to a group ritual and saw people calling the quarters and not really seeming to make an energetic connection with them, and it occurred to me that some people do not focus on the inner processes that happen during ritual. This is understandable as it is hard to communicate about something so ineffable and ephemeral.
Emlyn: Do these second editions supersede or complement the first editions?
Yvonne: That is a difficult question. They do not contradict what is in the previous edition. I have made a few edits of the existing material (mostly tightening up the language so it is more concise), but I mostly focused on adding new material. There are new chapters on making Pagan rituals more accessible, Indigenous land rights, theatre and ritual, photography as an embodied practice, how to call a quarter, setting up an altar, ritual roles and archetypes, a critique of the concept of the Triple Goddess, tips for ritual writing, and I updated the chapter on challenging oppression to reflect my recent learning on that topic.
Emlyn: Are these books are aimed at a specific section of the Pagan community or are the concepts and ideas expressed in them applicable to all sorts of individuals and/or groups?
Yvonne: I tried to write these books so that they would be of interest to Pagans and witches of all sorts. I hope that they will appeal to folkloric or traditional witches, eclectic Pagans, initiatory Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, other polytheists, and perhaps even esoteric groups from other spiritual traditions. I have talked about how to make ritual inclusive for LGBTQIA people, BIPOC / BAME people, disabled people, and other marginalised groups. I guess that people who are sticklers for doing things the way they’ve always been done will not like my books, but other than that, I think they will be of broad interest to people who want to examine the underlying dynamics of their Craft or spiritual path.
Emlyn: What were your main influences in writing these books?
Yvonne: A lot of what I have written about ritual is based on my experiences and reflections upon it. I built up a selection of coven training material over the years and expanded it from there.
For the social justice material, I have learned a lot from Black and Indigenous authors over the years and am very grateful for their articles on land rights, anti-racism, cultural appropriation, and related topics, especially Chelsea Vowel and Guilaine Kinouani.
One of the first books I ever read on witchcraft (back in the late 1980s) was Starhawk’s Dreaming the Dark, which made a big impression at the time. I also enjoy the work of Janet Farrar, Stewart Farrar, and Gavin Bone, T Thorn Coyle, M Macha Nightmare, Thista Minai, Christine Hoff Kraemer, Dodie Graham McKay, Christopher Penczak, and Thorn Mooney.
My witchcraft was influenced by the progressive Wicca of the late 1990s, as formulated by Tam Campbell, Karin Rainbird, and David Rankine, among others, and by the Reclaiming movement and folkloric witchcraft (also known as traditional witchcraft). I think it is fair to say that my witchcraft is unashamedly political, queer, earthy, and based on folklore.
Emlyn: What changes have you seen as a result of your books so far?
Yvonne: Well, it is hard to tell, but I think my work has helped to focus people’s minds on inclusivity in a way that was less prevalent before, but there were certainly other people who were thinking and practising along similar lines before All acts of love and pleasure: inclusive Wicca was published, so I do not think that I can take credit for all of the changes. There does seem to have been a shift where people now feel more empowered to talk about being inclusive, but the credit for that has to be shared with other people who were prepared to talk about being inclusive, and think about the ideas being presented.
Emlyn: How do you see your ideas in relation to the rest of the Craft?
Yvonne: I suppose you might say that inclusive Wicca is in creative dialogue with the rest of the Craft. People’s practice varies, but there were certainly people exploring ideas around making initiatory Wicca more inclusive before my books were published.
Emlyn: How do you incorporate inclusive ideas into your own Wiccan practice and what feedback have you had from your members?
Yvonne: People do not generally join my group unless they are in broad agreement with inclusive ideas. I certainly would not want to initiate anyone who was actively homophobic, transphobic, or racist, or (in a North American context) someone who did not care about Indigenous land rights. So feedback from members has been positive.
I would not say that I incorporate inclusive ideas into my practice, I would say that I try to make my practice as inclusive and affirming as possible. Being bisexual and nonbinary myself, there are certain practices in circle that are based on the gender binary that just do not sit right with me, so we do those parts of the ritual differently.
I would also say that inclusive Wicca is an expansion of the more heterocentric versions of Wicca. It is not that we ignore the concepts of polarity or fertility, for example, we just think that any pair of people can make polarity or fertility magic, and we do not restrict that to a heterosexual pairing.