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.
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.
This photo of George Winter, taken during his later years, conveys something of his great charm and wicked sense of fun.
The typescripts of The New Pagans’ Handbook have a dedication page that reads
‘Dad’ was Chalky’s private nickname for George. At the time Chalky first began to plan and draft the Handbook, in autumn 1982, George was still alive. He died in March 1983.
George, like Chalky, was a member of the Royal Windsor Cuveen which was founded by Robert Cochrane (Roy Bowers). Chalky and George planned the Regency together, and though Chalky wrote the rituals, he consulted closely with George at every stage.
‘Winter’ was not George’s real surname, but it was the name he preferred to be known by in the Regency. I have been told that in his youth in Norfolk he was befriended by an old gypsy or traveller woman called Mrs Winter. She taught him traditional witchcraft lore, and he took the name ‘Winter’ in her memory.
Why did Chalky call George ‘Dad’? I don’t know. But ‘Dad’ was also George’s nickname for Chalky. The pair of them enjoyed bewildering bartenders with exchanges like this:
“Would you like a pint, Dad?”
“Don’t mind if I do, Dad,” and so on.
Photograph of George Winter © John of Monmouth
This ceramic head of the Goddess, made by Ronald White, was used at the Regency’s Candlemas ceremonies.
Many thanks to John of Monmouth for sending us the photo.
The following notes were scribbled on a piece of paper in Chalky’s handwriting. I think they date from late 1966/early 1967. The last line is clearly an allusion to, and critique of, the principle known as the Wiccan Rede:
& (Build it in love)
Not do what you will: but try to do as little damage as possible.
The following notes, which turned up recently during a clear-out, date, I believe, from very near the beginning of the Regency; November or early December 1966. On the back are some rough jottings that clearly relate to the ceremony of the Reading of the Festivals; apparently a very early attempt to draft an outline of the ceremony. The notes ‘on hierarchies’ are typed; they are obviously a statement of some of the founding principles of the Regency. They may have been used as one of Chalky’s sermons, or as the basis for a sermon.
The Regency should avoid being a closed system.
The universe around us does not appear ‘closed’.
It seems to be an open ended process of which we are part.*
Any conception of the universe must be open ended also; allowing for variety even of truth in the material sphere.
One must have a belief in the oneness of things; and that no one can have monopoly of truth.**
The Gods, however envisaged, must be seen to be multi-aspected…(Janus).