Interview with author, speaker and High Priestess, Kate West
One benefit of the Internet age is we can explore far afield of our own country. Hence I keep in touch with some Pagan organizations in Europe. One, the Children of Artemis in England, is where I have had the good fortune to get in touch with Kate West, a well-known author, speaker, and workshop teacher. She is also the High Priestess of the Hearth of Hecate. I guess the nicest thing about the internet is discovering that well-known people are often quite nice people. So I asked for an interview; she said yes.
Christopher: How did you develop your interest in your path? Is this something you just studied on your own or did you gain any help from your family and people you knew?
Kate: Hi Chris, how lovely of you to want to interview me, and thank you for doing so. The short answer to your question is both. As a small child I was uprooted from ‘normal’ life when my mother and father took a live-in post with an elderly Lady, although my father still kept his full-time job. I use the capital ‘L’ quite deliberately, for she was one. As later evidence would show, she was also ‘one of us’. My father, from his Northumberland roots, taught me much about the birds and the animals, tracking and wood-craft. My mother, with her London upbringing, had a lot of teaching to give me about knowledge of people, their intentions, their actions, the results, and thus love and the removal thereof! But the Lady (as I will call her); she was an artist, elderly, and quite eccentric. She was ‘moneyed’ and definitely had her own views! As a very small child I was required to spend much time with her, and she taught me much about the land, but even more about the people who inhabited it. It is her informing of me that has encouraged me to think that Witches should be ‘the watchers and the listeners of the world’ for she taught me that a Witch needs to know how people work, otherwise they will never be able to grasp the thread of the spinner and, maybe, learn how to change it. In retrospect I believe that she may have been on the outskirts of one of the earlier occult groups. But that still left me with a huge amount to learn and to experience for myself.
Christopher: When did you discover that that your interests had a name?
Kate: I was in my late teens (15 or thereabouts) when I actually found that my beliefs had a label; up until then I had always thought of myself as being almost cursed as different! My mother was Catholic, and my eldest brother was being inducted into the Catholic church. I felt very different; I’d already lived many years of being told that no, you can’t see a ghost, or no, nice girls don’t ‘predict’ who is phoning. Then I found this book which implied that there actually were people who called themselves Witches! It was ghastly and pandered to all, and I mean all of the prejudices of the 1960s and 1970s. It even gave the Lord’s Prayer, written backwards, with the promise that, if you say it three times out aloud, the devil can appear and you can become a witch! Do you actually know what happens if you do that? Well I can tell you; you feel remarkably stupid and gullible, and so far no devils have turned up to claim my soul!
Christopher: Most of us as start as solitaries. Did you? How did you find your first coven?
Kate: I think there is an element where all of us need to start off as solitaries. To start within a group means you have no personal growth and experience to bring to the group. It also means that the individual will have absolutely no personal guidelines to take reference from, to see if this group will work for them, or to refuse when it doesn’t. But then again, starting in a group has worked for so many, so who am I to say? But yes, I did start out as a solitary. Sometimes in the more complicated coven times I look back to those times as being wonderful and free!
Christopher: You founded your present coven, didn’t you?
Kate: Yes, I did, but only after working within other covens. Like every other HPS and HP I carry the lessons I have learned and try to make them new and better lessons to teach. Although running a coven is not really about teaching, it’s more about mentoring and enabling.
Christopher: How did you get into writing? Had you planned to be a writer?
Kate: Plan!? You just have to be joking!! No, it most definitely not like that! I worked in a ‘new-age/occult’ shop in a remote seaside town. In the ‘summer season’ it was frantic, in the winter it was quiet enough to actually watch paint dry! So I wrote a leaflet to answer the questions that people had asked. So they took it away and asked a new, more interesting set of questions and I tried to answer them. Thus the leaflet grew to a booklet, and the booklet grew to a proper book, and then I got accepted by a publisher … and the rest is history.
Christopher: How many books have you written? How are your books different from many of the ones the market?
Kate: I’ve actually produced 13 publications, a ‘witchy number’, yes? From the moment I started I made sure that my books were always going to be ‘an easy read’, my first proof-reader; a friend’s daughter, was 13, when she started working with me. She always kept me very grounded in the ‘real world’ and helped me to keep my writing relevant and ‘live’ to young people, which means it’s also ‘real’ to people who are new to Paganism and the Craft. C: Easiest books to write? That’s a hard question, most of my books have been ‘easy’ to write because I can visualize the people I’m talking to; to me they are like my coven-members, and the other interested people I meet and talk to. I very much write to the people I’ve met.C: Most difficult? Oh Goddess, that just has to be The Real Witches’ Year! It had to planned; day by day, topic by topic and include seasonal, secular and ‘our’ religious festivals, and more. I had a certain amount of ‘space’ for each day, and this was reduced and increased at random intervals by the publishers, whether or not I’d already written part, most, or all of the whole book! There have been at least four full-length versions of this book, and no-one really knows how many false starts! So it was definitely the most complex work I’ve undertaken to date.
Christopher: Didn’t you recently have an American publisher take on some of your titles?
Kate: The rights to my books are in the process of being sold to Llewellyn, and they are gradually releasing my stuff in the U.S. They’ve changed a few covers, and I think they’ve improved them. I understand that they’re even going to re-release the one that nearly got away’: “The Real Witches Coven” never stood a chance in the UK; it fell between three editors (I seemed to have an unwanted side effect at the time – they kept getting pregnant!), and thus the book missed out on any publicity! Also, at the time, the publishing ideal of ‘appeal to the widest audience possible’ assumed that a book for potential coveners must sell less than one for ‘everyone’.
Christopher: We have some questionable books on the market and some questionable characters in Wicca. Don’t you have some strong feelings about personal responsibility to the Wiccan community?
Kate: Speaking personally, writing books on the Craft is never going to be profitable enough to make a living – so either I do it because I’m an idiot or because I feel a need to be speak out for our community! I accepted my first media interview because I saw someone on TV who said that they represented all Pagans and Witches (and therefore me) – and, to be honest, he rather made us look foolish. Since that day: I’ve appeared in local and national newspapers. Done local, national and international radio, and have done TV stuff all over. I was there in the days when the interviewer always had to bring in a member of the established Church in order to present “a balanced point of view” and I was there when the established Church refused to send anyone in against that ‘Kate West person’! I’m proud to have been a part of informing the public that we Pagans and Witches, are not the demons we were portrayed in times gone by. I hope and trust that we are now getting to a point where we are acceptable, if not quite yet accepted.
Christopher: How and why did you get stared as a speaker at Pagan events and doing workshops?
Kate: I must confess I took advantage of an absence of speakers at a very small local event. It was great fun, and so I did another, at which I made lots of fun of us Pagans and Wiccans and our written and unwritten rules. This led to me being given a very unofficial ‘title’ – the first Pagan stand-up comic! I guess that all those years of speaking at Sunday school, and of being a management consultant paid off – I had no fear of the audience. I love it when they heckle and we can laugh together, and I love it when we all get together and we can raise energy, chant, or just enjoy a laugh and a giggle!
Christopher: Ever feel stage fright?
Kate: Always! But, when I stand in the wings (or simply sit to the side) I apply my tall-thin-wonderful ‘on-stage’ personality and she gets me through it!
Christopher: You have been in the public spotlight for a number of years. Ever feel the need to step back and take more time for yourself and your family?
Kate: I have only the one son; my own late-in-life miracle! He attended his first Pagan conference at age three weeks and has been with me, at every conference and interview, and featured in most of the photos and stuff. I became instrumental that we broke the ‘rule’ of only over 18’s in public, because I wouldn’t appear if he couldn’t be with me. Over the years I, by my insistence and he, by his good and inquiring behavior, have changed the world of the Pagan conference and now it is rare to find a group which won’t have at least some open rites and rituals to which the children of the attendees may be invited. Of course this has not been universally welcomed!! I’m cutting back a bit on my public performances and intend to focus more on him.
Christopher: Where can our readers learn more about you and your projects?
Kate: I don’t currently have a website – I’ve always been a bit technophobic! But there’s usually information about my books and appearances as well as those of other authors on the Children of Artemis website www.witchcraft.com
Christopher: What else would you like to tell our readers?
Kate: I’d just like to take the opportunity to wish your readers all the Blessings of the Season.
Find Books written by Kate West