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Answers concerning the Roebuck

by Ann Finnin and Dave Finnin

The Roebuck has been in existence since 1976. Why have we not "gone public" before now as other groups  have done? Over the past twenty  years, the Roebuck and its members have come under considerable fire about its tradition from a variety of different sources. Beginning even before its formal inception, the entire premise of a  mystery tradition has been severely and harshly  criticised by those who seemed to object to its very existence. We will attempt to summarise these criticisms in order to help those of you who have heard these from other  groups understand why we do what we do and why, despite the criticism,  we will continue to do it in the future.

Common misconceptions and our responses:

We are elitist.

We have  maintained over the years that only a small percentage of the pagan community has the  intelligence, imagination and will to study the mysteries. This is not a path for everyone and we only accept those who have shown that  they can "pass muster." This, of course, goes against the democratic and egalitarian principles  upon which this country was founded. Through the church, we have set up our open festivals to try to accommodate this  right to public access, but the fact remains that while everyone should, and does, have equal opportunity to try the  mysteries, not everyone has what it takes to do them properly. We can either dilute the mysteries for the  masses, or limit access to those people who have what it takes to deal with them. It's either one or the other.

 We are anti-feminist.

The source of this criticism is usually women who don't approve of the equal  status of men in our circle and object to the fact that we do not glorify women's (and, by extension, the earth's) fertility cycles in  our rituals. Again, we are a mystery tradition, not a fertility one. The point of our  workings is to transcend gender-based roles and to find the methods of personal transformation that apply to both men and women. While we do not denigrate  women's mysteries, or men's mysteries for that matter, our focus is  that of "person's mysteries" or those mysteries that men and women can relate to equally.

We are homophobic.

This criticism stems from the fact that  many gays see the Craft as a refuge from the strict  patriarchal Judeo-Christian culture and they wish to express their gay lifestyle without anyone setting any limits on them. While this is understandable, the fact remains that men and women  have different ways of generating  magical power just as anodes and cathodes do inside a battery. This has nothing to do with sexual preference, but with hormonal makeup and other psychophysiological factors. A gay man is not a woman any more  than a lesbian is  a man. Two anodes may love each other very much, but they aren't going to generate the electricity of an anode and a cathode.

We are not sexually liberated.

More groups are destroyed on both sides of the Atlantic   by their leaders thinking that they had the right to have sex with whichever member appealed to them, regardless of who was legally married to whom. We decided from the very first that fidelity and self-restraint were pagan virtues  too and we  made the decision that we would refrain from what is often called "right of carnal access" simply to appear liberated. A coven is not a group marriage and individual marriage vows, like any other oaths,  are important and binding. We  feel that sex magic is best practised in private by two adults with an emotional and spiritual commitment to each other.

We are not socially conscious.

By this, people usually mean  that we are not politically correct. Our cultural  exclusivity, strict entrance requirements and circle discipline, refusal to be involved as a group in political causes and our insistence on personal responsibility (not to  mention our fondness for weaponry of various kinds) makes us  unacceptable for those in our society who wish instant resolution to all social problems. We feel that people achieve enlightenment and spiritual maturity one  person at a time, not in a mass movement. Therefore, we concentrate on individual  growth and development rather than political issues.

We "out" people.

Many people, particularly those involved in  fantasy role playing and re-creation groups, object to our long-standing policy of insisting on the use of  real, that is, legal, names when dealing with us. Too many people in the community hide behind elaborate and fanciful  names and titles in order to appear to be something they are not. We acknowledge that in a few isolated cases a person must  use a pseudonym when writing or appearing in a public forum. However, in purely social situations,  particularly when someone is inquiring into our group, we will insist on knowing the inquirer's real name and place of residence before  revealing any information about ourselves and our group.


Perhaps more than any other time in history, we live in a culture that has completely  abandoned the  notion of individual responsibility. We have become a nation of victims, encouraged by those in authority to blame everybody and everything else for whatever our circumstances happen to be. As  a result of this, there has also  grown a vast industry of professional and amateur care-givers who will, for either money or ego strokes, will attempt to encourage the victim mentality in order to justify  their continued existence or establish their financial power base.

This attitude is directly antithetical to the purpose of the Roebuck, or, indeed, any other mystery  school. The bottom line of any mystery teaching is that each person  is individually responsible for his or her own life, both spiritual and emotional. While we are not necessarily to blame for what  others do to us, particularly in childhood,  we are to blame if we allow those past experiences to mess up our current life. We can empower ourselves to overcome any obstacles that we wish to.  The techniques are there and have been there for millennia for those who really desire to take  advantage of them.

But, like the Catholic priesthood of the Middle Ages who fed off of the spiritual hypochondria of the  masses, the present Social Services industry who feed off of  the emotional hypochondria of the same masses are not likely to take very kindly to this notion. If everybody took charge of their own  lives, then a lot of therapists,  psychiatrists, government bureaucrats and social workers would be out of a job. And, just as heretics were burned in the Middle Ages for insisting that they did not   need a priest or the sacraments to get them into heaven, heretics will be persecuted now for insisting that they don't need a priestly therapist or the sacrament of Prozac to get them into that same heaven.

However, if we, like them, insist on our own freedom of conscience and spiritual and emotional self-reliance, we can also count on the same persecution as those who minister to the masses rise up  against us and call us evil. We are not so  different from our counterparts a thousand years ago. We, too, have to choose between social acceptability and personal empowerment. We can't remain  emotional victims any more than they could remain spiritual victims and expect to  work the magic of the gods. Somewhere along the line, we must take the same journey towards self-hood and claim  the same spiritual fire. But, like them, there will be nobody to blame but ourselves if we fail. And the social consequences are  just as grim as the pyre or the gibbet if we succeed.

This brings those of us who join mystery traditions to some very difficult and fundamental choices. Through sacred ritual and communion with the gods, we  receive divine power that can be used to  produce changes in our world. This has been the purpose of the mysteries from the dawn of humanity. However, that power for change must first manifest within us before it can manifest  anywhere else.  We must grow and change before the world around us can change. And therein lies the dilemma. We cannot claim the power to change our lives for the better without admitting that we  allowed our lives to be messed up in the first place.

This is why people who join mystery schools often experience such upheavals in their emotional and  physical lives (what we in the Roebuck call the Maiden Year Blues) afterwards. By joining a mystery tradition, one declares before the gods that  one wishes to become the master or mistress  of one's own spiritual destiny. However, we cannot choose to take charge of our life on the spiritual plane and insist on remaining a victim on the physical and emotional planes. It simply does not  work  that way. Nearly two thousand years ago, a man writing under the name Hermes Trismegistus inscribed upon the Emerald Tablet "As above, so below." And that is just as true now as it was then.

So, why do the very few of us choose to take the mystery path? Because, in all places and in all times, there have been those of us who refuse to be controlled by those who would exploit human  greed and laziness in order to keep humanity under  their spiritual, emotional or physical thumbs. There are those of us who instinctively know that we are not free if we remain dependent upon our  society for physical,  emotional or spiritual sustenance. If you let someone else take care of you, then you must do as they tell you or they will withdraw their support. Take care of yourself and you  become the master or mistress of your own destiny. It's as simple  -- and as difficult -- as that.

And so, once again, the mystery path is hidden from outsiders -- hidden not because of any  secretive effort by those who practice them, but hidden by the very  fact that most people don't want to see them. But, like the Purloined Letter which is hidden in full view, the mysteries are there,  have been there and will continue to be  there, for those who have the inner soul urge to seek them. This is the gift of the gods to mortals. The society and culture may change, but that gift remains the  same throughout time. All we have ever had to do is to reach out and accept it.

Human society will exact its price for defying the status quo and insisting on being an individual  rather than just one more member of the herd. For most people, this  price is too high to pay. They would rather fit in, belong and be accepted by their fellow humans. But for a few of us, the price for  individuality is well worth it.  Human society is ephemeral. It rises, falls and rises again, over and over in an endless cycle. At the close of the second millennia of the common era, our society  is in a  downward spiral and will soon fall. But we don't have to fall with it. Those of us who have chosen the mystery path will survive as individual souls when our society is in ruins and its members are no more.

written by Ann Finnin and David Finnin
updated: December 1, 1997
document ROEBQUES © 1997 Ann Finnin and David Finnin

Here are some other things to look at:

Contact information, for Ancient Keltic Church and Roebuck study groups, covens and newsletters in North America.

You may return to:

A concise description of the Roebuck Tradition.
The index of English Traditions of the Craft.
The Beaufort House home page.