[This issue, we sit down with Lee Morgan. A member of the Anderean House of Witchcraft, Morgan is also the author of both occult fiction and nonfiction. Here, they discuss their personal spiritual practices, their books, and their upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How would you describe your personal spiritual tradition? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Lee Morgan: The tradition I belong to is called the Anderean House of Witchcraft (not to be confused with Anderson Faery) which has a few localised clusters that are identified by the area we come from, so we’re usually just ‘the Hobart coven’. We continue to identify ourselves as Traditional Witchcraft or Old Craft, but I am also aware that it is the fate of any term to eventually come to mean a variety of things, some of them a long way from original meanings, and eventually they cease to truly signify much. You cannot ever truly hang onto words, or keep them pure. Consequently I am less wedded to terms and I continue to believe that witchcraft will always be in essence a ‘deed without a name’.
ev0ke: Which Deities, powers, or other spirits are honored in your tradition?
LM: The spirit we work most closely with is a local face of The Witch Master, sometimes known as the devil of the coven – who is quite different to the Christian devil. We work from within, rather than with, Grandmother Fate and a variety of land-based spirits, and mighty dead figures.
ev0ke: What is Tasmanian Gothic, and how has it influenced your work?
LM: Tasmanian Gothic is a literary, visual art, cinema/TV phenomenon that describes work with a vent for the dark and supernatural history of our island. Sometimes it includes a sort of gloomy surrealism. The recent TV series The Gloaming not only features our scenery in a threatening way, but draws on a lot of urban legends from around Hobart. Tasmanian Gothic has been a huge influence on my novel The Rag and Bone Man, which is set in Tasmania in the 19th century and at this point has only been published as part of an art installation called The People’s Library. I’m ideally hoping to find an Australian publisher to make it more available in the future.
ev0ke: You have published several books on practicing witchcraft in the modern world. A Deed Without a Name: Unearthing the Legacy of Traditional Witchcraft was released by Moon Books in 2013. First, how did the book come about? And did you approach Moon Books, or did they come to you?
LM: I went to Moon Books. I was drawn to their promise of a rapid response to the manuscript, which is quite rare in the industry, and was quite blown away to have the book accepted so quickly.
ev0ke: A Deed Without Name is followed by Standing and Not Falling: A Sorcerous Primer in Thirteen Moons and Sounds of Infinity, which focus heavily on the Otherworld and the Faerie. What do you wish people would understand before engaging with Faerie (the people and the realm)? And would you be willing to share one of your formative experiences?
LM: The main thing I wish people understood about working with the Fair Folk is that there are sometimes certain agreements in place with them that if you break them that goes very badly for you. This can include certain requests for silence about the specific nature of those dealings, and/or other taboos. For this reason I won’t go into too much detail about my experiences with Them, beyond to point out that during those moments there was such a strong glamour at work that incredible things passed before my eyes and other senses without seeming remotely strange while they were happening, and that the details of the sighting seem to quickly become muddled and unstable in the mind, even though they were crystal clear at the time.
ev0ke: There are many books about the Otherworld and the Faerie, but they vary widely in quality. In addition to your own work, what other texts do you recommend?
LM: Morgan Daimler’s research is very thorough, reliable, easy to read, and true to primary sources. Primary folklore texts are always most important to me, because there is a collective wisdom that emanates from them, they are based on more than just one person’s account and have passed through multiple hands and reflect ongoing, localised knowledge. I would say that in a modern context, real primary accounts contain something of the weird about them, having been shaped by that feeling of glamour I described above.
ev0ke: In addition to your nonfiction books, you have also written the Christopher Penrose occult series. How many books are you planning for the series? And how much of the magic practiced by Christopher and his coven is based on your own practices?
LM: Originally I intended for the Christopher Penrose novels to have seven books in it, now that idea is a bit in flux. I started that series a very long time ago now, when I was twenty-one in fact, so over twenty years ago. There is both a good side to this fact, being that Christopher and I were almost the same age when I start writing, so the books almost chart his development alongside mine. Then there is the fact that my writing has improved so much in those twenty years that it’s easy to feel like it’s too late to continue it meaningfully. This could, of course, change if a significant push from readers fires me up for it, so I’m not saying four is definitely the end yet!
The magic practiced in their coven was designed to reflect some kind of hybrid between a few different Traditional Craft practices I’ve been exposed to, including our own, but it is not a copy of one in particular.
ev0ke: You have also released one book in the Lux de Rue series. Given that it is set in medieval Normandy, how much research went into Unless They’re Wicked? Stacks of books? Hours at the library?
LM: It’s funny you should ask that at the moment as my current writing project is an epic based on Lux’s story. I’m basically cannibalising the first story into a great big fat book that tells her whole journey from beginning to end, which will be released this year. Writing a book set in medieval Britain, involving topics like Robin Goodfellow and the green children of Woolpit, was always going to happen, I think. Both the time period and the amount of uncanny reports of green children, revenants, and even an early vampire panic you find in the primary sources in the early twelfth century England (during the time known as ‘The Anarchy’) have always been areas of obsession for me since I was a teenager. It feels like in these historical moments of chaos something of the preternatural can kind of creep through into people’s consciousness or lives. It’s one of those topics that I’ve sort of consumed so much literature on, from primary sources, archaeology, and other modern writers that it forms a kind of cache in my psyche. This being said, I didn’t want to write a book full of useless historical trivia, I want it to first and foremost be about the characters and my usual themes: witchcraft, faerie phenomenon, sexuality, and being an outsider.
ev0ke: Where can readers find your books?
LM: They can order them directly on the Internet and this is usually faster than ordering them through a bookshop – though if you don’t mind waiting this is of course awesome if it causes them to appear on shelves. You can even ask for them at your library, which can encourage them to purchase the book.
Probably the easiest way to find them all in one place is my Amazon Author Page where they have me under ‘(traditional witch) Lee Morgan’ because my name is apparently too common to allow me not to have an extra identifier. If you wish to resist the Amazon leviathan you can get my non-fiction titles directly from the publisher which in the case of earlier work is Moon Books, and in the case of Sounds of Infinity (the faerie book) via The Witch’s Almanac. The first two books in the Christopher Penrose series are published with Cosmic Egg Books. Unfortunately the other two in the series are independently published through Amazon self-publishing and Kindle. I would like to eventually change that situation, but publishing fiction with niche storylines full of witches, brimming with lots of queer and polyamorous relationships, is even harder than publishing and selling standard fiction.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
LM: Well, the Lux/Robin Goodfellow epic will be out this year. I’m also hoping to spend some time looking for a home for my Tasmanian Gothic piece, The Rag and Bone Man.