WITCH SCHOOL: FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD DEGREE LESSONS IN THE CORRELLIAN TRADITION
REV. DONAL LEWIS-HIGHCORRELL LLEWELLYN, 2008
Witch School was founded online (as witchschool.com) in 2001 by the Correllian Nativist Tradition, which was itself founded in 1879. Originally a family tradition, in 1979 the decision was made to open the tradition to the public via a series of correspondence lessons created (in part) by the Rev. Don Lewis.
In my opinion, it is important to see the Correllian Nativist Tradition and Witchschool.com as two entirely separate entities, because although the Tradition founded the School, the latter has almost nothing to do with the Tradition. Witchschool is very popular; the School claims more than 200,000 students, making it (to my knowledge) the largest occult organization in the history of modern Paganism. Although these books are labeled WitchSchool, it would be more accurate to say they are “Correllian Nativist” as the lessons are the public documentation of this Tradition’s teachings.
First Degree is based on the idea that it will take the reader a year and a day to work through the twelve lessons presented, at the end of which s/he would be ready for initiation into the Tradition’s First Degree. (Like many Wiccan systems, the Correllian Tradition recognizes three degrees of knowledge.) Each lesson is composed of several parts: the actual lesson, exercises to develop skill, practical experience (spellwork using the lesson), a deity (a device to introduce the reader to the multiple faces of the Divine), a glossary, and thirteen study questions (one for each lesson).
The lessons are fairly basic (as is appropriate) and generally progress from theory (the meaning of magic) to experiential (creating sacred space, working with energy) to the practical (herbs, oils and incense, stones). While important material is presented, I was disappointed that the reader is never asked to keep a journal/ Book of Shadows of his/her progression through the lessons.
There are distinct differences in these teachings from what many of us from Gardner-based traditions have been taught.I found some of the attributions for the chakras unique – Mars for the second chakra (the belly) for example – and the assertion that movement deosil (sunwise) is connected to God and matter, whereas widdershins (anti-clockwise) is connected to the Goddess and spirit. The currently popular use of affirmations is heavily relied upon, which I also found odd in a 19th-century tradition.
Second Degree is similar to its predecessor in structure, but the subject matter is more advanced. Presented here are lessons in Tarot, Physiognomy, Astrology, Magical Alphabets, Numerology, Death and the Spirits, Sex Magic, Magical Calendars, Advanced Chakra and Energy Work, Ley Lines, the Ba Gua, and a chapter on Group Dynamics.
Clearly the student working on a Second Degree has to understand a wide variety of esoteric subjects, some of which can take decades to master. In this system, Second Degree initiates are expected to be able to run a temple, answer most questions, and choose an area of specialization such as ritual work.
As might be expected of such a unique tradition, with these lessons the information diverged a great deal from the “mainstream.” I was pleased to see the chapter on group dynamics, an oft-overlooked topic. If the reader truly wants to become a Correllian, this chapter will give the outsider a glimpse at what active involvement would entail.
Third Degree is written for advanced readers who are dedicated to becoming a leader, have done all of the work found in the first two books, and are interested in becoming Correllians.
The three core responsibilities of a Correllian Third Degree are teaching, transformative energy work, and oracular work. Third Degrees form the moral backbone of the Tradition. The first two chapters —- “Standards & Behavior” and “Appearance & Presentation” — are hugely valuable, so much so as to be near-required reading for anyone considering leading any magical group. Lesson XI, “Problems and Solutions in Group Working and Temple Management” is also valuable. Other generally useful chapters include “Astral Traveling and Remote Viewing.”
The other chapters differ from my own beliefs, teachings, and experience so substantially that I can only say that the Tradition is consistent in its belief and viewpoint, and offers an unusual perspective on many esoteric topics.
One of the highlights of this series is a deeper look into this little-known Tradition. There are few mentions of their beliefs in general circulation and even fewer well-known public personalities. Moreover, their Wicca is distinctly different from that practiced by Gardner and his descendents, making this a rich resource for newcomers to Witchcraft.
The lessons presented are solid and well-designed. As with all learning, if the student truly “works” the exercises, s/ he will develop a rich esoteric practice and experience spiritual transformation. All the more so if s/he supplements the lessons by reading what others have said and — of course — by testing it through personal experience.
A practicing Witch for more than twenty-five years, Lisa McSherry is an author, and the senior editor and owner of Facing North: A Community Resource www.facingnorth.net