Initiation of Janet Owen, 1970

When I last did a post on Janet Owen (Janet Farrar) I promised that my next post would be made up of later images. After looking at my post again, I changed my mind. There was too much left out of my first post.

According to his own account, Stewart Farrar met Alex and Maxine Sanders on Saturday 20 December 1969 at the release of Legend of the Witches. On Saturday 21 February 1970 he was initiated into the Sanders’ coven. Four months later it was reported in Rolling Stone (25 June 1970, p.18) that the Sanders’ had

recently completed an album. Done in one take, 50 consecutive minutes, it is an actual initiation ceremony as performed by Alex and Maxine and five others. There is a spoken narrative to describe the physical trappings and occurrences.

The same issue of Rolling Stone contains the following advertisement for A Witch is Born:

The participants are named on the album cover as Alex Sanders (High Priest); Maxine Sanders (High Priestess); Janet Owen (Initiate); Stewart Farrar (Narrator, and author of the Liner Notes); Charles Mitchell, Elaine Ferguson, Nicola Kozak, Rollo Maughfling (Coven members) (this information is also online on Discogs).

A Witch is Born has three tracks 1 “Initiation” (24:42); 2 “The Legend Of The Goddess” (5:19); 3 “The Great Rite” (9:01): representing a first, second and third degree initiation (as Stewart states on the liner notes). At 24.30 of Track 1 Alex says to Janet “I now salute thee … newly made priestess and witch”; at 8.40 of Track 3 Alex says to Janet “I bring before you, Janet, duly consecrated, a priestess of the Goddess.” That is, Janet has been given a first, second and third degree initiation in an “actual” (i.e. genuine) initiation ceremony. (An mp3 audio file of Janet making her vows has been posted here, where you can listen to the short clip, or download the audio file).

However, Janet tells us that she was initiated to the Second Degree on 17 October 1970 by Alex and Maxine “in an unoccupied house in Sydenham” (from coven records and documented history) and to the Third Degree on the 24 April 1971 in the Sanders’ Notting Hill flat.

Also, confusingly, it seems that Janet acted as Maiden at Stewart’s initiation, suggesting that her first degree initiation occurred before Stewart’s on 21 February 1970. In What Witches Do (1971) Stewart describes the Maiden [p.25] as “a shapely girl, almost as tall as [the author]; a Highland Scot, having that unique femininity which goes with soft accents, hard landscapes, and the title ‘lass.’ In fact, everything which would normally stimulate him.” This last bit being a reminder that the pair were naked, and in an embrace. Janet, is one of only two women that were in the Sanders’ coven at the time [pp.72-73], though she is not Scottish (she is of “mixed English, Irish and Welsh descent” according to Wikipedia.)

So, while it is not clear whether the pictures below are of the “actual initiation” of Janet; Janet was undoubtedly initiated — eventually — and photos were taken by Stewart of the event recorded on A Witch is Born. The LP was issued by A&M Records [AMLS 984], London, the day after Janet turned 20 and this album was reissued in 1994 by Grey Matter as a CD [GM06CD]. Photos also appear in Stewart’s What Witches Do (1971), Douglas Hill’s Witchcraft, Magic and the Supernatural: The Weird World of the Unknown (1974), and Nevil Drury’s Magic and Witchcraft: From Shamanism to Technopagans (2003).

Altar ready for initiation
Alex and Maxine prepare cords for binding Janet
Alex and Maxine. The invocation of the Goddess
Invoking the Lords of the Watchtowers
The Challenge
Binding the initiate
Taking the measure
The ritual scourging
Janet receiving her ritual tools
Enacting the Legend of the Goddess

14 Responses to “Initiation of Janet Owen, 1970”

  1. stringbeanjean Says:

    my my…janet is divine.

  2. I am sure it was all good fun. But it is NOT witchcraft. What we see goes back to a rather sad civil servant in the 1945 period. Witchcraft is the CRAFT of Witches. I can take four steps back to the 17th century. There are at least FIVE obvious give-aways in the photographs. The Star of David is an extra thrown in. Other bits ar offensive to real witches (not Wiccans!)

  3. Mephisto Says:

    There is NO prescription formula to consider this or that as witchcraft and it’s really not the presence of the Star of David that invalids any practice treated as such. Wicca is an iniciatic modern religion of misteries with elements from british (and another) lore. Obviously the Wicce-craeft is not summarized in Wicca at all. Wicca is not “the religion OF the witches”, but certainly “a religion FOR witches”, if they please to get part of one, of course. Many witches I know work with cabalistic, gnostic and even christian conceptions. It’s trully a perversion/inversion/reversion of senses which seems to be good and workable for them and their craft. That’s what witches are! Artists! It’s the both profane and divine arte of the witches!


    Mephisto Vel Amazarak

  4. these are really great images, thanks for the post. if this isn’t witchcraft then WHAT IS real witchcraft?

  5. Thank you for posting such extensive bibliographical information, including pictures, dates, page numbers and catalog numbers for the advertisement, LP album and cd reissue. This is real boon to scholars like myself who research in the area of new religions and need this type of documentation paper trail. This information can very difficult to come by otherwise.

  6. redwitch1 Says:

    Thanks Christopher, this is music to my ears, because it is exactly what I aim for.

    As you say in your review of Triumph of the Moon “the closer you get to the present and away from Medieval and Renaissance magic and witchcraft, the tougher it is to function without access to private libraries.”

    It is ironic that the Renaissance texts are both rare and expensive, but are very well known, frequently copied, and widely available (in facsimiles and reproductions), whereas 20C material is (relatively speaking) cheap, but a lot more rare: some of it is almost impossible to find in fact.

    For example, Gardner’s first book, Keris and Other Malay Weapons (1936), is hardly held in any public library at all. And I think I worked out that first editions of his A Goddess Arrives (1939) are held by only two public libraries on the planet!

    By any standard, therefore, my own collection is exceptional, since I have signed copies of both (in fact, I have two editions of Keris and Other Malay Weapons). Ditto, the first publication of the Gardnerian rituals: in Witch by Rex Nemorensis [aka Charles Cardell] (1964).

    But it is absolutely necessary to either build up a substantial library, at considerable expense, or rely on the private libraries of others, if you are at all interested in the history of witchcraft/wicca in the 20C. And in my neck of the woods, you really have no choice: you need your own library.

    In fact, without a decent library to begin with, it is not even clear which books you need!

    So, I do what I can to smooth the path for others by providing as much information as I can. I figure anyone who doesn’t need the information can skip, and for others, it will be gold dust.

    So Christopher, if you found any gold dust, I am very glad indeed!



  7. Thanks for the feedback. I have a question though. Which edition of Rolling Stone features the June 25, 1970 discussion of Alex Sanders and the ad? I’m looking at a microfilm edition of page 18 right now and its an article on the musical Hair. There are a few photographs of the Strawberry Mountain Fair in CA, and an advisory to stay away from Taos. Is your information from a UK or some other edition of the magazine, because I’m not seeing anything similar what’s posted here. I’m truly puzzled! BTW, I have a much more favorable opinion of Triumph Of The Moon than I did at the time I wrote that review. Hutton’s subsequent book all but admitted that he’d misjudged the religious role of magic and the Golden Dawn earlier.

  8. though the art of witchcraft is multi-cultural, the image of their art is clearly a dianic/isis creation based design, but you have to have been to more then a 70’s get together to see this…

  9. I always thought Janet was seriously hot. What a lucky old goat Stewart was! Ummmmm. She’s still looking fabulous from what I can tell.

  10. “if this isn’t witchcraft then WHAT IS real witchcraft?”

    By definition such practices are occult IE hidden, this is something more akin to the showmanship of a circus tent.

  11. Great post! We arе liոking to this great content on ouг
    site. Keеρ up the greeat writing.

  12. Depression has actually been a difficulty for me way too. It is not terrible adequate to wish medicine, nonetheless it has definitely sabotaged my li da makes an attempt. You will find times when i do not treatment about something, and i binge to generate myself really feel much better.

  13. stimulating game

    Initiation of Janet Owen, 1970 | Sexy Witch

  14. Very nice. Would love to meet Janet

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