The Regency – Ken Rees

1 07 2008

Despite the sideshow that evolved from and because of the above lecture, the point of the afternoon hasn’t passed me by, nor anyone else who was there, I suspect. I’m going to try and give an overview of the topic. I should say at this point that Ken Rees handed out reference materials, upon which I draw and which I will acknowledge.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Rees was keen to stress his academic approach. I took this to mean as opposed to  a purely spiritual or personally interested approach, although Rees is a pagan and clearly got a lot out of The Regency in a spiritual sense.

The Regency rose out of the Clan of Tubal-Cain and the Royal Windsor Cuveen, after the death of Robert Cochrane in 1966. The 1734 group was another off-shoot. The word ‘Regency’ can be seen to have several possible meanings. One, it may be a reference to the son of Robert Cochrane, and the group’s determination to rule in his stead until he reached his majority. Two, it could refer to the struggle within each member to exchange the present self, by dint of effort, for the ‘regent-in-waiting’ or the higher self.  The third and perhaps most controversial meaning is that of the rulers in stead of the True King, in this case Arthur, who will rise to rule England once again; of which more later.

The Regency are characterised by Rees as ‘neo-pagan’ to differentiate them from other pagan groups, and especially from Wicca. Wicca has some superficial similarities to The Regency’s operations, for example the worship of a Goddess and God, and observance of a round of yearly festivals, but in fact The Regency appears remarkably different on examination.

It was a largely oral tradition, for one thing; for another, the festivals celebrated throughout the year depended upon The Reading of the Festivals of the Year, which took place about a month prior to Yule (Rees 2008). The festival of the year were then subdivided into those for the Goddess (Candlemas, May Eve, Lammas and Hallowe’en) and those for the Gods (plural) (Yule, Twelfth Night, Spring Equinox, May Eve, Midsummer, Autumn Equinox and Hallowe’en). Yule was the beginning of the year and the end; the 23rd December was called ‘The Dead of the Year’ and a fast was observed (Rees 2008). 

You will have noted the reference to Gods plural; on the night of 23rd December the Star Child – called Robin – was born and the year cycle began. At midsummer, Robin died after rejection by the Goddess, and was reborn as a mature man, winning feats of valour and along with victory the hand of the Goddess in marriage.

(There is a great deal of detail to the lecture material passed out by Rees; while I would like to post it in its entirety I feel I cannot. It’s very interesting stuff, but a summary will have to do! So I return now to my lecture notes.)

These premises can be seen to differ in wide and interesting ways from the prevalent Wiccan traditions of the time. Gardnerian Wicca was perhaps a little more restrained, in the closet, elusive; Alexandrian Wicca was patently none of these things! From 1966 onwards, The Regency met regularly, only meeting inside for the first year and then taking all operations out of doors, primarily into one tract of woodland in North London. From the 1970’s it appears that just about everyone who was anyone in the pagan world used to show up for meetings. The circle was open, and you could introduce a friend. In fact, Rees told us he even took students along with him, so there was no hint of exclusivity or invisibility about this group.  For the time, I think this is remarkable.

From 1974 onwards, the rituals became much less formal, and would include a period of meditation; the whole of the wood was used, with movement between special trees, sacred groves and so forth. Women and men were separated for some of the time to engage in Women’s and Men’s Mysteries. Rees said he had no idea what the women got up to, except sometimes he heard them screaming (!) but one of his tests as a man, to vie for the hand of the Goddess, was to scrunch holly leaves in his bare palm. Ouch! 

Rees was never a member of the Inner Circle, which clearly existed. Ron White, later venerated along with George Winter as a cornerstone of The Regency, had sought to take the group along slightly darker and arguably slightly murky paths; in 1967 he called a moot at which he demanded an oath of allegiance to the express intention to restore Arthur’s England – one of the tenets was to disbar all those of black heritage, Europeans and Jews from membership. Only two out of the assembled party agreed to take the oath, and Ruth Wilson Owen threatened him with dismissal for such an act.

What makes anyone muddy the water in this frankly naive way? I think this was the one great unanswered question in the lecture, and a point on which I’d be interested to learn more. The conflation of Arthur’s England with a lowest-common-denominator racist attitude by Ron White seems to have done him no favours. Did The Regency feel it needed to make this point? From the evidence presented, it would appear White was acting alone. 

These points aside, these is an interesting mismatch between Robin and Arthur as characters; Rees made the case that Robin is more closely associated with the Lionheart, Richard III, and not Richard I. He finds the mythological construct unconvincing. However, as archetypes these two figure might work better.

In all, The Regency seemed to be ahead of its time. There were no oaths, similar to the new forms of Solitary and Eclectic Wicca. There were no fees to join, no secrecy and no grades. Tied to the spirit of the country that spawned it, The Regency made much of its sense of place, of worship using native figures, symbology and materials, and seems a very creative and, despite its perhaps backward-looking attitude to female equality, a very inclusive group.




6 responses

1 07 2008

Thank you, that was interesting. 🙂

2 07 2008
The Green Witch

I think I may have missed some of the key themes, particularly the discussion of the meaning of the symbols on both George Winters’s and Ron White’s gravestones; but I was somewhat distracted by the Ludlow Three 🙂

3 07 2008

Facinating – thanks so much for posting. I’m going to have to find out where else he’s talking this year and hear it for myself!

3 07 2008
The Green Witch

Glad this was useful, Caspar. I’d be very interested to hear from you what your thoughts are after you’ve heard him speak – perhaps we could intercalate notes and balance up the picture I’ve painted, if it needs doing? 🙂

1 10 2008

I have read your account of Ken Rees’s talk on the Regency at Ludlow with great interest. I knew Chalky White very well and I have to say that I don’t begin to recognise my old (and much-missed) friend in Rees’s account of him. But I am not here to talk about Ken Rees, but to invite you to look in on the memorial website that some of us are creating for Chalky at this url:

We shall be publishing, in instalments, a lot of Chalky’s writings, as well as photos of some of his ceramics, and other material related to his life and work. I hope you will find the site enjoyable. I know that something of Chalky’s own voice can still be heard through the writings he left, the reflections of an honourable and very thoughtful man.

Warm wishes to you.

2 10 2008
The Green Witch

Many thanks for visiting, Cartazdon, and for your comment. I shall visit your site and look about with interest!

Bright blessings, TGW

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