Warlock

The State of Male Witchcraft: The Elder Witch

What it’s like to be a coven leader whose ‘second sight’ has been passed down through generations of witches

Despite what pop-culture lore may have taught you, the majority of men who practice witchcraft do, indeed, refer to themselves as witches. But though they may share a universal name, exactly what that practice looks like varies from witch to witch, so ahead of Halloween, I spoke to three male witches about their craft and how they came to understand it.

Yesterday, I introduced Enrique, a gay Creole witch in his early 20s. Today, we’ll meet Griffin, a witch in his 60s who’s been practicing the craft according to British folkloric tradition for decades. He now manages The Green Man, a psychic arts shop in North Hollywood, California, where he helps teach ritual workshops to witches of all genders.

Name: Griffin
Age: 61
Location: North Hollywood, CA
Title: Elder Witch

The Witch Bloodline 

I identify as a witch. It’s not a term that really I grew up with, even though, when I was growing up back in Britain, my great-grandmother had what they called “the gift.” She drowned herself in a bucket of water the year before I was born. She was in her upper 70s, and she was an unhappy soul. It wasn’t that she was depressed or anything, she just wasn’t very happy with her lot in life at that time. She had health issues and stuff, so she was quite good at just saying, “Okay, I’m ready to move on now,” because she had a great sense of what came after. 

My grandmother brought the gift to life for me when I was a child, because she talked a lot about her mother, saying that the gift had been passed from her mother to me. I was raised very much with the beliefs of the spirit and of the other world. The world was full of more than just reason and logic — there was magic in the world. I got a tarot deck when I was very, very young and found that I had a gift for it. 

My grandmother sent me to spiritualists when I was younger. She also sent me to a house of people that turned out to be witches, although they didn’t really use that term as much as they were into the occult mysteries; they were used to talking to spirits. It was working the old ways, really, the old practices. This coven started having me doing healing work, but a lot of the work that I did was really expanding my reality through spiritual experience. I have what they call the Second Sight, and a gift for mediating what I see. This gives me a unique ability to provide magical experiences for the public, as well as train a strong coven.

A Witch By Any Name 

The term witchcraft was something that wasn’t really used back when I was growing up in the 1960s or 1970s, because there was a great stigma around it. There wasn’t a question of being hunted down as a witch and burned at the stake, it was just that people would ridicule you. 

The language [of identifying as a witch] didn’t come back until later. I worked in a coven of a couple of witches when I was in my teens, and that’s where I got my basic training. Then I went to Scandinavia and studied for 10 years in theater arts before coming to Los Angeles and getting into the film industry. But on the side, I was always working with witchcraft. 

I raised a coven back in the early 1990s and discovered a community of Wiccans, which was new to me — I didn’t grow up with Wicca, what I practiced was old-time, traditional witchcraft. I wasn’t even aware of Wicca until I came to America. The basic differences between my practice and Wicca is that I work directly with spirits, rather than from anything in a book, and what I do is a practice, not a religion: I work with many gods, but worship none.

I started teaching traditional witchcraft in the late 1990s, and it was around that time that I sort of became more of a public figure, so I started using the moniker “witch” because it was something that the community was trying to claim. There was a great sense of claiming the history of what it was to be a witch: There were a lot of people trying to redefine what it was, because a lot of what people thought of as witchcraft had been lost to history.

Craft as Art

I very often talk about [witchcraft] as an art form of the spirit. You try and explain to a person that this painting that has streaks and colors is going to express this, that or the other on a foundation of reason, but you can’t apply reason and science to art, you can only experience art — either it moves you or it doesn’t. For people whom the art moves, you’ll find that it becomes the foundation of their reality, the foundation of their lives. So it’s an incredibly important thing. Love, for example, is a very powerful spirit: We’ve had wars over love, people uproot their lives and move across the world for love. And yet, love can’t be defined in a laboratory or defined with reason. It’s an emotional experience of spirit. Witchcraft is the same way: Witchcraft works with your heart, by your feelings and by the experience of spirits.

If you feel the calling to step outside the box and explore a bigger universe, then I believe that you have the ability to make that journey. I think this is for the people who are more comfortable coloring outside the lines — if you’re a person who likes the idea of predictability, of structure and of feeling safe, then witchcraft wouldn’t be for you, because it will only throw your life into turmoil and make you incredibly insecure. 

Why It’s Not Just For Women

When I first started teaching witchcraft, people would come in and say, “Witchcraft, that’s for women, not for men, right?” I say, “Says who?” If we look at all the history of witchcraft, at the center of a coven, there’s always been a very powerful male. If you look at the Wiccan traditions today, which are pushing big feminist issues, the founders of both the Alexandrian and the Golden Covenant were men. There’s always been a strong male presence within witchcraft.

When I first started coming into the community, there were men who were identifying themselves as druids and pagans, but there was a heavy dominance of women in the witchcraft community. I think that was because, with the arrival of the feminist movement and the Wiccan community, there was a heavy authority of women. I had a lot of women coming to me in the early days saying, “You’re such a powerful priest, why are there not more powerful men?” I’m like, well, because you’re castrating them. If you’re going to approach men by telling them that they’re basically just an altar boy to serve you, you’re not really encouraging them to take the power. 

A lot of people who’ve gone through Christianity have come out with baggage — they’ve had to come to terms with the abuses of their various expressions of Christianity. In rebellion to that, there’s been a lot of, let’s put the gun down and worship the goddesses. But the Christian god isn’t the only god — there’s a lot of other very positive male figures.  

As we’ve become more and more mature in our community and gotten over that first knee-jerk, we’re finding that a lot more men — especially the metrosexual kind of guys today, who aren’t frightened of expressing their feelings and their sensitivities — are getting into witchcraft. So there’s a big increase in the male population now in our community; the tide has definitely swung. We’ve got nearly as many men as women coming to the classes that I teach. 

On Becoming an Elder

In my classes, I teach a wide variety of pagan subjects, including psychic development, spell-crafting and working with spirits. I also have a coven and within the coven, I’m the magister, sometimes known as the devil, because I’m the one who provokes virtue. I make you stand your ground — I make you stand for what you stand for. I provoke evolution and change. 

I’m seen as an elder because I’ve been doing this for so many years and because I teach. I have the privilege of teaching almost on a weekly basis, sometimes a couple of times a week. I do consultations as well. I’ve been doing this for 10 years here [at the Green Man], and I was doing it for another 10 years in another store. So I’ve got over two decades of daily experience working with this language. I’ve had the ability to develop my language, to talk to people from all different paths. 

I look at my role as an elder in this community as a way to try and look at our common roots and commonalities, and weave them together in unity and solidarity as one voice.