Farrar, Stewart (1916-2000)
Farrar, Stewart (1916-2000)
Stewart Farrar, international leader of the contemporary Wiccan community, was born on June 28, 1916, in Highams Park, Walthamstow, Essex, now a London suburb. His family were Christian Scientists, but as a young man he left the faith and spent much of his life as an agnostic. He attended University College in London as a journalism major, graduating in 1937. With war approaching, in 1939 he joined the army and became a gunnery instructor. He rose to the rank of major by the time of his return to civilian life in 1946.
After the war, Farrar spent the next quarter of a century was spent pursuing his journalism career. Attracted to Marxism, in 1953 he became a reporter for the Communist Party's Daily Worker, but quickly became dissatisfied with both the party and the newspaper. He subsequently worked as a scriptwriter for Associated British-Pathe, a movie production company, and gradually transformed into a freelance author. His first novel, The Snake on 99, was released in 1958.
In 1969 he took a position as a feature writer for The Reveille, a weekly periodical. The job changed his life, as it led to his meeting Alexander Sanders, a charismatic teacher who had developed a variant of a new religion, Wicca or witchcraft, as originally proposed by Gerald B. Gardner. Dissatisfied with the agnosticism that had dominated his life, he found himself attracted to the new faith and in 1970 was initiated. Assisting his conversion was the research required for his next book, What Witches Do, a basic volume describing Alexandrian Wicca. Despite its repeating many elements of Sanders' fictional biography concerning his own Wiccan accomplishments, the book attracted many to the Craft.
Once in the coven, Farrar met Janet Owen (1950-), another new initiate, and after eight months of training they left Sanders and formed their own coven. They functioned as priest and priestess for several years and were finally handfasted (married) in 1974. Two years later they moved to Ireland, Farrar having returned to his work as a freelance author. Through the mid-and late 1970s he wrote a series of occult novels but in the 1980s turned his attention to a series of books on Witchcraft that he and Janet coauthored. The first, Eight Sabbats for Witches (1981), was the first published detailed discussion of the annual cycle of Wiccan celebrations. They followed with The Witches' Way (1984) and the Life and Times of a Modern Witch (1987). A pair of volumes, The Witches' Goddess (1987) and The Witches' God (1989) detailed the many expressions around the world of the primary deities of the polytheistic Wiccan religion.
By the time their books appeared, Wicca was a growing religion in both Europe and North America, and as pioneering figures, the Farrars became international celebrities in wide demand as speakers at Wiccan events. In 1988 they moved back to London, and collaborated on several books with Gavin Bone. Stewart Farrar died on February 7, 2000.
Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. Eight Sabbats for Witches. London: Robert Hale, 1981.
——. Life and Times of a Modern Witch. London: Piatkus, 1987.
——. The Witches' Way. London: Robert Hale, 1984.
Farrar, Stewart. What Witches Do. London: Peter Davies, 1971.