Witch School was founded online (as witchschool.com) in 2001 by the Correllian Nativist Tradition, which was founded in 1879. Originally a family tradition, in 1979 the decision was made to open the tradition to the public via a series of correspondence lessons, created (in part) by the Rev, Don Lewis. These lessons took seven years to create, but revisions and upheavals within the tradition (including the passing of several Elders) delayed their presentation to the outside world until 1999.
In my opinion, it is important to see the Correllian Nativist Tradition and Witchschool.com as two entirely separate entities because although the Tradition founded the School, the latter has almost nothing to do with the Tradition but instead provides an easily accessible, inexpensive and extremely general (and often shallow) look at a variety of occult topics. Witchschool is, however, very popular. The School boasts of having more than 200,000 students, making it (to my knowledge) the largest occult organization in the history of modern paganism. The generality of the majority of the lessons and the large size of the student body are two things that have generated a great deal of controversy in the witch community.
So it is important to separate the two. Although this series of four books are labeled ‘WitchSchool’ it would be more accurate to say they are ‘Correllian Nativist’ as the lessons and structure are the public documentation of this Tradition’s teachings.
Second Degree is similar to is predecessor in structure. Again we have the twelve lessons with exercises and spells to deepen the readers’ knowledge. The Deities and questions at the end of the chapter are not in evidence, however. The lessons themselves are not at all basic for most witches. Presented here are lessons in Tarot, Physiognomy, Astrology, Magical Alphabets, Numerology, Death and the Spirits, Sex Magic, Magical Calendars, Advanced Chakra and Energy Work, Ley Lines, the Ba Gua, and a chapter on Group Dynamics. Heady stuff!
Clearly the student working on his/her second degree has to absorb and understand a wide variety of esoteric subjects, some of which can take decades to truly master. (Reading a chapter does not make a Mary Greer, after all.) The Introduction says that Second Degree initiates are expected to be able to run a temple, answer most any question put to them, and choose an area of specialization (such as ritual work).
As might be expected of such a unique tradition, with these lessons the information has diverged a great deal from the ‘mainstream’ of thought. In Tarot, for example, Correllians divide the major arcane into five groups, one for each element plus spirit. That idea isn’t particularly startling (Crowley’s deck in particular comes to mind as a deck where the majors are all heavily linked with correspondences) but placement of the cards is done in progression. Air cards are the first four: Magus, High Priestess, Empress and Emperor; Fire cards are Hierophant through Strength; Water has the next four, Earth the four after that, and Spirit has the final five. The Fool has no correspondence. With that caveat, the practical part of the lesson is solid, if not unique.
Some of the lessons didn’t interest me: physiognomy, for example, has had little to support its validity (particularly in this day and age of corrective surgery). But the sub-lesson on palmistry was sound. As it turns out, the BaGua is the I-Ching, a divinatory system I’ve never been able to use (and still can’t).
I was pleased to see the chapter on group dynamics – a topic often overlooked in the teaching literature. I think other authors have done a better, and more comprehensive job, but if the reader truly wants to become a Correllian, this chapter will give the outsider a glimpse at what active involvement would entail.
A major criticism is that the exercises in the chapters often had little, or nothing to do with the lesson itself. Lewis-Highcorrell explains that they all build upon one another, which I think is practical (and wise). But it is nonetheless disconcerting to finish learning about numerology and then do exercises related to the personification of the chakras. (The chapter on chakras, however, had exercises that further developed one’s work with the crown chakras.)
One of the highlights of this series is the deeper look into this little-known Tradition. There are few mentions of their beliefs in general circulation and fewer well-known public personalities. Moreover, their Wicca is distinctly different from that practiced by Gardner and his descendents, making this a rich resource for newcomers to witchcraft.
The lessons presented are solid and well-designed. As with all learning, if the student truly ‘works’ the exercises s/he will develop a rich esoteric practice and experience spiritual transformation. All the more so if s/he supplements the lessons by reading what others have said and – of course – testing it all out through personal experience.
The God/dess gave us brains, we don’t need to drop them on the floor.
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Author: Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell
Llewellyn Worldwide, 2008