Attendance at the early meetings of the Regency was by invitation only. The first open meeting was held on May Eve (30 April) 1967.
The first time the Regency met out of doors was on May Eve 1968. The ceremony was held on Hampstead Heath. Hampstead Heath proved a bit too public; the ceremonies attracted a certain amount of unwelcome attention. Later that year the group began to hold its meetings in Queens Woods, Hampstead.
So far no early script of a Regency May Eve ritual has turned up.
Chalky’s appointments diary for 29 April 1970 contains a checklist of items needed for the May Eve ceremony:
The page for 30 April contains the note:
The Mystic Marriage.
In 1971 the Regency celebrated May Eve in Suffolk. Soon afterwards Chalky wrote a short account of the meeting for Joe Wilson’s magazine The Waxing Moon. He describes how the Regency had gradually moved away from the closely scripted approach of the early years towards something much more fluid. At this May meeting for the first time the scripts and even the formal order of ceremony were completely abandoned; Chalky called it ‘the First entirely spontaneous Regency Meeting’.
A typescript of an early Spring Equinox ritual has survived, taped inside one of Ronald White’s notebooks. It is most likely the ritual that was composed for the Regency’s first Spring Equinox meeting, in 1967. It was certainly composed no later than 1968, since after that date, the Regency rituals were held in the open air (except for the Candlemas ritual).
The ritual is similar to the Spring Equinox ritual described in the New Pagan’s Handbook, but there are some significant differences.
The typescript includes an invocation to the Goddess, which was delivered by the women.
This photo was taken at a Candlemas ceremony held in the early eighties at Ron White’s home in Shropshire. At the start of the ceremony the goddess statuette was draped in red; now she has been draped in white and decorated with white flowers, to symbolize her transformation from Mother to Maiden. White candles have been lit and placed before her.
Here is a closer view of the statuette. The object partly visible behind the candlestick in the middle is a silver cup.
This statuette, which was made by Chalky, was used at the Regency ceremonies for many years. Incense was often burned before it: hence the streak of brown on the white clay.
Twelfth Night is mentioned only briefly in The New Pagans’ Handbook. However, the initial notice of the Regency (‘First Details of a New Religious Society’) that was published in Pentagram at Candlemas 1967 lists it among the major festivals and the Regency celebrated it every year on 6th January.
In the Yule section of the Handbook Ron says of Twelfth Night: ‘This day celebrates the coming to power of the new Sun God and the final departure of the old, who as Father Christmas or the Fool, had presided over the festivities.’
The first Regency Twelfth Night ceremony took place on 6th January 1967. Ron drafted an outline ‘order of ceremony’ for it on blank pages in his desk diary for 1966, which also contains a diagram and a sketch relating to the set up for the ceremony.
Here is the sketch: it shows a goddess figurine with arms raised in front of three candles and a libation bowl.
The early Regency ceremonies were closely scripted, but the script for this ceremony has not, so far as we know, survived. Instruction 8 in the draft outline, ‘Side Amber Light up’, points to the carefully planned staging that Ron and George went in for at this time. The Regency gradually moved away from this kind of thing towards a much more fluid, spontaneous kind of event.
Part One of Prospero’s Book is a general introduction to the theory of magic. Part Two, still to come, focuses on what Ronald White called ‘the keys’: the tree alphabet outlined by Robert Graves in The White Goddess, which Ron explored in detail, and related to the Tarot trumps. Here are the last few paragraphs of Part One:
To the magician the recent interest in Near Death Experiences is nothing strange. The experiences are well documented, historically, religiously and magically. They are taken as fact.
That there are other, parallel and displaced conditions is central to the ability to see from afar, to bilocate (a sort of soul quantum) and to influence the mundane world through the shifting displacements of the lattice. This other world has been divined but not defined by an odd researcher, now dead himself, T. C. Lethbridge, who found the existence of timeless strata above our temporal existence.
A further instalment from Prospero’s Book:
The core problem in writing about magic is in expressing just what you want to say. It can never be adequate, nor ever just right: precisely the poet’s problem. What can be said can never be the thing itself. It can point, lead and direct but not completely explain.
‘The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao.’
Our blocks and counters of words are but airy symbols capable of being misunderstood, or understood in ways we never planned. We must hope to hold in our word patterns some sense that will say more than the words: an underrun of meaning inexplicable in just those mere words.
This is the task and definition of poetry, to resonate deep images in a receiving mind.
Resonance is important. With our spells, some make superficial sense; others are gibberish, but for that very reason: that behind the rattle and bray of the sounds some super sense and feeling of deep significance is invoked and evoked. Good nonsense poetry can have the same effect. Thus invocation is vitally important to waken the super senses of the mind to their possibilities. Mantras, the intonations of the Mass, and the driving power of some music, strange chants and ululations, all contribute to this effect (distancing oneself from one’s Self, if you like).
More from Prospero’s Book; Ron White on luck, omens and the ‘acausal world’:
Now we are entering a different world to the merely material. Already a picture of a different order is building up.
It seems that lessons learnt by a European rat can simultaneously be mastered by an American rat. R. Sheldrake who has studied this gives it the name ‘resonance’. Another good name, and I shall use it, rather than ‘interactive nodal influence’, a lattice term.
We are affected by our surroundings, and that includes non-material matters like thought- patterns, feelings and atmosphere. Ideas in these areas can be transmitted non-verbally and apparently instantaneously. The number of discoveries made virtually simultaneously by people who do not know each other and live half a planet away is considerable. The once much-derided sympathetic magic is another example of resonance as are some of the events of evolution. By extension all this hints at another picture of the world.
There is, it seems, an acausal instant world available to us if we know to set about it. This explains why some people are lucky, why others seem to be blessèd, live a charmed life and so on. They seem to have an inbuilt unconscious knowledge to sense and profit by opportunities in the acausal world; or even to glimpse its lattice workings and its latency pattern. They know by instinct when the time is ripe for action. They do not even have to be aware of this ability.
In the Candlemas issue of Pentagram, 1967, the initial public notice of the Regency stated:
It is called “The Regency” for at present it has no living member of sufficient spiritual stature to speak with the authority of the great religious leaders of the past (Arthur still sleeps in Avalon).
This has led to speculation that the founders of the Regency believed themselves to be preparing the ground for the emergence of a new religious leader. This is not the case. Indeed, it would have been quite against the spirit of the Regency.
In common with many other pagans at that time, Ron and George believed that they were living at the beginning of a new age of paganism.
(They were not wrong. A sign of the times: last month the Druid Network in the UK was officially recognised as a religious organisation by the Charity Commission.)
At the first Reading of the Festivals in November 1966 Ronald White said in his address:
At this time of the promise, I speak of Regency Festivals, and the things and thoughts that Regency brings. For we are all Regents for the coming kingship of a different way of thought and life.
This was what the Regency anticipated and worked for; not the arrival of an earthly king or leader.
In 1974 in the article A Modern Pagan Group Who Meet in London Ron explained their ideas further:
We call it the Regency for we are all regents in our outer selves for that centre of our being where the Goddess and the Gods dwell. There is only to each one that self, and the possibility of realising that self. This is each person’s own disparate responsibility. It cannot be traded off by accepting the commands, peccadilloes and conceit of a leader.
What, then, did he mean when he said ‘Arthur still sleeps in Avalon’?
The awakening of Arthur which Chalky anticipated was not the return (or emergence) of an earthly ruler, but the return of the God.
The awakening would happen within people: ‘we are all regents in our outer selves for that centre of our being where the Goddess and the Gods dwell’. The process to which paganism called people was the realisation of the self: the spiritual growth that came from living in accordance with the rule of the divinities within. By undertaking this responsibility, individual pagans would also become ‘Regents for the coming kingship of a different way of thought and life’: the Return of Arthur.
The Regency taught that unthinking allegiance to a leader was harmful. Pagans, in Chalky White’s view, were called to accept responsibility for themselves.
In an interview that Chalky and George gave in 1968, which was later published in Man, Myth and Magic, Chalky is reported as saying “The idea was that we would have no dogma, no creed and no leaders.” The interviewer explains: ‘Chalky, who tends toward the Left in politics, … distrusted the idea of High Priests and Chief Druids.’
In June that year, Chalky scribbled on a page of his diary ‘no one leading. Committee of 6 avoid cult of personality’.
And in 1974, in the article quoted above he described the Regency as
an organisation with no organisation – a group as its name suggests with no leader, for who can be so great as to presume the power of the Gods?
What the Regency expected and worked towards was the restoration of the gods within.
One of the rituals practised by the Regency was the widdershins or anti-clockwise dance. The next section of Prospero’s Book is headed ‘The Effects of the Widdershins Dance’:
One of the effects of an anti-clockwise motion if prolonged and particularly if assisted by humming or some rhythmic device or beat (preferably hypnotic, simple and repetitive) is to promote a sense of displacement. This is of supreme importance. One feels that one is outside oneself or at a little distance from oneself. This is invariably to the left side and somewhat above. We meet this phenomenon in the so-called Near Death Experience, and similar disassociated states. Sometimes it can be drug induced. The known effects of displacement also include the suspension of a linear time sense. (Margin: An effect produced by some poems.) The ability, however dimly, to divine and see a different world and a different order become Present. One of the effects of this state is to trigger small lights, mostly red, which appear and disappear if one is working in the dark. They are lattice nodal points; photons if you like; winking in and out of existence. They are a certain sign of contact between dimensions.