‘Every ceremony grows out of the ground as it were.’ 
This is the second and concluding article on the Regency, written by a genuine member of the Regency in response to Ken Rees’ recent lecture on the same subject delivered at the Esoteric Conference in Ludlow organised by Verdelet magazine. The Regency, founded by the members of the ’Cochrane Coven’, under the leadership of Ron White, organised public celebrations of the seasonal festivals that were open to all-comers. These celebrations – along with the Witchcraft Research Association and Pentagram – were an attempt to revive the old ‘Mystery religion’ described by Robert Cochrane [2 and 3]. Mystery religions entail a mystical identification of the follower with her or his Goddess and Gods. The rites of the Regency were designed to achieve and structure this mystical identification through observance of a cycle of seasonal celebrations. These rites evolved as the intuitive and poetic understanding of the Mysteries – gained from committed observance of the seasonal cycle – evolved in members of the Regency.
Ron White’s The Reading of the Festivals of the Year, based on Robert Cochrane’s correspondence with members of the coven, was the meditative focus of the Regency’s seasonal rites. This document, read annually at the Time of the Promise (Eve of Advent), outlined the nature of the Goddess and the Gods and described their seasonal changes. In this description of the Regency’s rites, I describe only the symbolic acts that made up these rites. Central to these rites was the requirement that the attenders meditate upon the Mystery embodied in the rites and its meaning to themselves. I leave the reader to do this.
At the start of each celebration, the Magister would tell the story of the cycle thus far and its last event would then be repeated. This would establish continuity between the festivals. A walking meditation on the time of year and its meaning in the attendants’ outer and inner worlds would follow. This took the form of circling a tree to the beat set by the Summoner. During this time, shamanistic techniques would be used to prepare the attendants for mystical identification.
The Time of Promise: The Regency would meet in Queen’s Wood on the Eve of Advent. There, by the light of a single candle, The Reading of the Festivals of the Year would be read. It provided a summary of the journey through the Year-Past and a synopsis of the journey through the Year-to-Come.
Yule: The Regency would meet before a holly tree. The women would cleanse the ground at the base of the holly with fire and water. The Maid would then carry the ‘Candle of Promise’ from the Halloween Ground to the holly-tree. The attendants would take turns to light candles from the ‘Candle of Promise’ and, sun-wise, create a five-pointed star around the base of the holly. This would be followed by a ‘quickening’ dance around the star. The birth of the Star-Child would then be declared.
The women would invite the men to pour a libation to the Star Child. They would then give each man a holly wand. One of the men would be given a mistletoe wand. He would then be announced as an intruder and the men would chase him out of the clearing. He would return to linger in the shadows. The women would tell the men that they needed a man to rule until the Star Child was of an age to rule for himself: they needed a Regent. The men were asked to present their wands for inspection and the women would lewdly and disparagingly assess them. The man with the mistletoe wand would be called out of the shadows. His glistening wand decided the women and they elected him as Regent. He was told to lead the festivities and ensure that the attendants were first wined, dined and bedded – or at least given wine, cake and a kiss – before leading them on a Fool‘s Dance through the wood. A feast, with much merry-making, would follow.
On Twelfth Night, the Regency would return to the holly tree. The Maid would choose a man to be the new King and would arm him with his wand of office and silvered holly spears. He would then drive the Fool from the wood and cast his spears to the four quarters.
Candlemas: At Candlemas, the Regency would meet indoors and gather before a black-draped altar lit by a single candle. The women, dressed in black, would stand behind the altar. On the altar was a black-veiled, sculptured head of the Maid. The men would then be told to leave the room and to meditate on the Mystery of Her Renewal. The women would change into white dresses and prepare the room. The altar would be re-draped in white cloth and the head of the Maid with a white veil. A cascade of many candles would be lit and the altar sprinkled with snowdrops.
The men would then be invited one by one to return to the room. At the entrance to the room, the man would be stopped and his purity and allegiance challenged by one of the women. If his answer was satisfactory, a second woman would cleanse him with fire and water. He would then be given a candle and snowdrops and allowed to enter the room to see the Mystery. A quiet feast would follow.
Spring Equinox: The Regents would again meet at the holly-tree. The women would stand on either side of the Maid, holding bouquets of primroses. The men would be sent to find ‘wands of office’. When they returned, the women would inspect the men’s wands with lewd, teasing commentary. A consort would then be chosen by the Maiden. The Maiden’s men would swear allegiance to him and a feast would be held.
May Eve: The Regency would once more meet at the holly tree. The Consort would propose to the Maiden and, perhaps, be challenged by other suitors. The Maiden would then make her choice. The Maiden would be decked in scented flowers and her Consort would be crowned with leaves. They would then lead the ‘wedding party‘, along candle-lit paths, deep into the wood to a clearing with a mature oak tree at its centre. Candles would encircle the clearing and bouquets of flowers and silver suns, moons and stars decorated the bushes.
The couple would stand before the tree. Rose petals would be placed at their feet and their hands would be bound together with silver ribbon. The attendants would perform a spiral dance around the couple and the tree, holding silver ribbons that would gradually bind the couple to the tree. They would then swear allegiance to the couple. The couple would kiss. This would be followed by a game-filled feast.
Eve of St John: The attendants would gather at the oak tree and the wedding-feast would continue with a celebration of the couple’s intended honeymoon. Bawdy comments and stories, making reference to the Horned One and to the phallic nicknames of ‘Marian’s Men’ – Robin Hood; Little John; Will Scarlet; Friar Tuck; Much the Miller – would be made. At the close of the wedding-feast, the couple would retire into the wood. There, in the darkness, the women would ritually slay the King. The celebration would be brought to a sober end.
The Regents would again meet at the oak. A woman, dressed in red, her lips ’bloodied’ with blackberry juice would emerge from the darkness and invite the men into the Castle of Wonders. The other women, dressed and stained in the same way would process out of the darkness, carrying a bloodied spear and a goblet of blackberries and blackberry juice. They would kiss the men with blackberries between their lips. The King would then be led into the clearing, a crimson cord around his neck, his face bloodied with blackberry juice. He would reign over the harvest feast. After the feast, the women would take him back into the darkness of the Underworld.
Autumn Equinox: The attendants would be led by a labyrinthine route through the wood to the oak. The women would then emerge from the darkness bringing a plate of hazel nuts to the men. The King would no longer be present. A reflective feast would be held.
Halloween: The attendants would meet for a final time at the oak. One of the women would lead the men, one by one, blindfolded through the wood to the edge of the stream. There, he would be met by the Maid who would hold a knife to his chest or throat and ask him if he had the Ferryman’s fee and whether he was prepared to die to continue the journey. If his answer was satisfactory, he would be cleansed with fire and water and allowed to cross the stream. An apple would be forced against his mouth. Once he had bitten the apple, the blindfold would be removed and he would be allowed to progress to the Halloween Dancing Ground. The Halloween Dancing Ground was a bare clearing, encircled by oaks. At its centre was a fallen oak-log used as an altar. On it was a bell, a goblet, a knife, a skull topped with a candle, some apples and a cake.
When the men were all assembled, a circle would be cut in the ground around them and the ‘roads’ opened. With much tapping of the skull, ringing of the bell and whistling, the attendants would circle, offering their hands to the Ghosts whom they would call to join them. When the Ghosts had joined them, the dance would continue, followed by a feast that was shared with the Ghosts. Halloween games of divination and flying were played. Finally, the feast would be brought to an end and the ‘doors’ would be closed.
The Cochrane Coven resurrected the Old Mystery Religion under the name of the Regency. It was so called because it could have no leaders; each of us is Regent to the deity within us. The cycle of seasonal rites provided the focus by which members of the Regency connected with the deity. Without the shamanistic techniques used by the Regency and the capacity for mystical identification amongst its members, the cycle of seasonal rites would have been no more than, what it was to observers, a cycle of ‘seasonal dramas’. These ‘dramas’, however, took place in an Otherworld in which the Land of the Dead was the Land of the Dead and the Goddess was the Goddess. To have a knife put to one’s throat by Her and to choose Death was very, very real. It sent chills down the spine!
The Regency used magical rituals for the end for which they were intended – no more. As part of the process of gaining Wisdom, members of the Regency gained magical power, but that was secondary to its purpose. Members did work with the Moon. The nature of these rites may be surmised from what I have written of the Regency’s rites. They were separate from them. They are contained in the correspondence between Robert Cochrane and members of the Royal Windsor Coven. This correspondence was intended to be destroyed once read and so will probably never be published. Nevertheless, I hope that, in these two articles, I have given sufficient guide to the path followed by members of the Regency that people today, who wish to follow that path, may not be led from it by the ‘blind leading the blind’.
Hony soit qui mal y pense!
 ‘The Regency’ by R. M. White in Pentagram #6 (Candlemas 1967).
[2 and 3] ‘The Craft Today’ in Pentagram #2 (November 1964) and ‘The Faith of the Wise’ in Pentagram #4 (August 1965) by Robert Cochrane.
© John of Monmouth 2009