A Trinidad Interview with Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
By Lisa Allen-Agostini
In the world of the occult, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
is big news.
The head of the Servants of Light
School of the Occult Sciences in Britain, Ashcroft-Nowicki is
in Trinidad for a week of workshops in increasing one's personal
power through mysticism.
Before you break out the holy
water and start reciting psalms in
defence of your immortal soul, understand that Ashcroft-Nowicki
doesn't consider herself a witch, Satanist or anything like that.
What she does, she said, isn't the craft or even magic - or "magick"
as some would have it. "Sacred science comes close to it.
Forget magic," said the smiling 75-year-old, who came into
the Guardian office last week.
Stressing that the "sacred
sciences" require patient and dedicated research, she came
down hard on those who flirt with the occult for quick results.
"There are people out there who read a couple of books, who
go to a couple of lectures or workshops and say, 'Ahh, that's
a way to make money.'"
Her opinion on the rash of books
and shows on magic and wicca (the name practitioners prefer for
witchcraft) is equally firm. "There's nothing deep to them.
They're crap. And they get published because people want something
different. The church isn't giving them what they want and they
fall into the wrong hands."
This is her fourth visit to Trinidad;
over the last three years she's delivered workshops similar to
those she's here to give, to small groups. They were invited by
word-of-mouth and flyers placed at occult bookshops.
This week's meetings have themes
"Increasing your personal
"The magic of Solomon the priest king"
"Five gates of power"
They're "training", Ashcroft-Nowicki said, in "striving
to become a better human being, to use the faculties of mind,
body and spirit that nine times out of ten we don't even know
we've got." She paraphrased science writer Arthur C Clarke,
saying, "Any sufficiently advanced science is analagous to
magic; we try to make what we term magic more acceptable and accessible.
"What people tend to think of magic is simply something we've
forgotten how to use or haven't learnt how to use yet."
Looking like any other matronly
tourist in her brightly patterned, flowing cotton dress, Ashcroft-Nowicki
wore two pendants on a gold necklace. One was an ankh, an Egyptian
fertility symbol; the other was the head of Anubis, the Egyptian
god of the underworld. In other words, symbols of life and death.
Her work, she said, is geared toward "healing, to get in
touch with our own higher self, to seek knowledge." Alternatively,
she goes "right back into ancient days and put together what
we call a ritual drama."
Looking for Ashcroft-Nowicki
on the Web, you'll find accounts of some of those "ritual
dramas". For instance, she has presided over a "Herne
hunt" - a pagan flight through a forest by moonlight in which
participants pretend to be Herne, a mythical huntsman, and his
bride Celemon. In myth, those who see the huntsman die or go mad.
In reality, as told on the Web site witchvox.com, those who saw
the huntsman simply got very drunk.
"What I'm not doing is preaching
or teaching in any way something that is anti-religion,"
she said. "My father taught me that you never ever decry
another person's religion, because it is real to them."
Her mentor and the founder of
her school, Ernest Butler, told her too that "a good heathen
is better than a bad Christian and vice versa." Her work
is to "try to look for that which binds them together."