Review of The Roebuck in The Thicket

The Roebuck in The Thicket – An Anthology of The Robert Cochrane Witchcraft Tradition.
By Robert Cochrane & Evan John Jones.
Edited and Introduced by Mike Howard
ISBN 186 163 155 3
Capall Bann 2001

This book is a distillation of the writings of Robert Cochrane & Evan John Jones on the workings of “The Clan of Tubal Cain” in the 1960s.
Robert Cochrane claimed to be an hereditary witch, citing connections through both his parents. He described himself as ”a Pellar…a member of the People of Goda…known locally as witches, the Good People, Green Gowns, Horsemen &…Wizards”.
In the early sixties Cochrane and his wife formed a working group, and it is then that his association with Evan John Jones began. Cochrane and his group worked with many people, including W G Grey, Doreen Valiente and Marian Green, people who have subsequently become Elders of the current Pagan scene.
Mike Howard has expertly edited the articles into 19 thematic chapters.
The first, an introduction by Howard, is an overview of Cochrane’s life and influence on his contemporaries and later groups.
Then follow four articles written by Cochrane himself during the early sixties. One in particular – “Witches’ Esbat” is credited as being “One of the best descriptions of a witchcraft ritual in print”.
Cochrane died of Belladonna poisoning at the Summer Solstice 1966. He was 35 years old and in a ritual context “had used narcotic plants extensively in small doses to induce trance states”. His ritual experimentation with herbs – “Willow Bark, Apple and Pine Gum and Foxglove. Narcotic plants such as Deadly Nightshade and Bryony” is attested in the writings of W G Grey.
The remaining chapters by Evan John Jones, form a systematic examination of the Workings of “The Clan of Tubal Cain”, discussing the symbolic and spiritual meanings contained in the rituals described. These articles were first printed in The Cauldron magazine in the late 1990s, a magazine also edited by Mike Howard. Clearly, Howard’s familiarity with the subject goes some way to explain the care and skill with which the book has been edited and the material arranged.
I first read this book at one sitting a couple of years ago, but still I often find myself sitting down re-reading it when I should be doing something else. All in all it provides a fascinating view into the frequently ignored non-Wiccan edges of the Modern Witchcraft Revival.

Jean Dark
September 2004
printed in Cambridge Pagan Circle
And in Dragonswood Magazine

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