Pagan Pioneers: Founders, Elders,Leaders and Others
Written and compiled by George Knowles
Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki is a British occult Author, Psychic, Lecturer and Teacher of Western Mystery Traditions.She is the current Directorof Studies of the “Servants of theLight”, one of the UK’s leading esoteric schools, founded by her late teacher Walter Ernest Butler in 1973.The school has roots going back to an earlier Occult order, the“Society of the Inner Light” foundedby Dion Fortune in 1924.
Dolores wasborn on the 11th June 1929 on the Island of Jersey off the coast ofFrance. Her greatgrandmother was a full-blooded gypsy gifted with natural occult talents, many ofwhich she passed on to her grandmother. Althoughher grandmother didn’t practice witchcraft “per se”, she did use magick ina craft sort of way, and she in turn passed down her knowledge onto her mother.Her parents were both third-degree initiates and ran a group that wassimilar to an occult lodge, but care had to be taken to keep this secret due torestrictions still in force under the old Witchcraft Laws; it was therefore onlyreferred to as their 'discussion group'.
According to Dolores:“…they lived in a little cottage where all the rooms ran off ashort corridor. The room in whichher parents entertained visitors was separated from her own room by a curtain.During their meetings she would climb out of bed and go listen frombehind the curtain, and there often fell asleep, at which times her motherwould pick her up and put her back in bed.Eventually they simply let her stay up and listen, on which occasions shewould curl up in a corner of the settee until she fell asleep”.
In this way Dolores was brought up in a family tradition dedicated to the occult sciences.Like most children when they are little, Dolores had 'theSight' and recalls an incident from her childhood:
“When I was little and still going to school, I usedto pass this beautiful wall of Jersey granite (Jersey is built on such granite).I didn't know what it was at the time, but I know now it was an earthelemental and I called it Christopher. Iused to stop on the way to and from school and talk to him.A teacher found me one day busily talking to this wall and informed theheadmistress. The upshot of allthis was that my parents were requested to take me, not to a psychiatrist, butsomewhat of a counselor.
I was lucky; “the Devil looks after his own”, theysay. This guy was Welsh and as feyas they come. He was most intriguedabout Christopher. How did I seehim, and what did he look like? WhatI had to do to see him was to clap my hands three times, then put my handsagainst the particular stone and turn it, as if opening a door... and there wasChristopher, you see? He was mostintrigued, but in the end he gave me some advice, 'Never let yourself be foundout. Do not let normal people knowabout it and you will remain safe.' Goodpsychic advice. He saved my bacon!”
In another recollection from her childhood, Deloresrecalls:
“In the cottage were we lived there was a blockeddoorway connection through to the next cottage.When we first moved in I was about 18 months old, and there was an oldlady living in the second cottage. Shewas a lovely old lady always looking after me and making cookies, but sadly shedied about six months after we moved in. Aftershe died, my parents rented both the cottages and eventually my father unblockedthe connecting doorway (this made the corridor mentioned earlier).By doing this, my own room was virtually in the other house (that of theold lady) and although dead, she used to visit.
It never occurred to me to be afraid, being on my own,for I had a lovely big dog that always slept in my room.When the old lady came to visit, she would talk to me and tell mestories. Now, I thought it was mygranny who used to live just around the corner, and it wasn't until I was 4 or 5that I realized there were times I could see right through her.Still, it never occurred to me to be afraid.That the two cottages were haunted was beyond question.On one occasion, my father, a materializing medium, had an experiencethat cost him so much energy he was ill for some time afterwards. “Never again!” my father said, and he didn't.After that experience, he concentrated more on the philosophical side ofthe occult, rather than the physical."
In September 1939 after Germany invaded Poland andEngland entered war, and with the imminent invasion of France byadvancing German forces, for their own safety, Dolores and the rest of herfamily were exiled to mainland Britain. Theywere just in time, for in June 1940, German troops landed on Jersey and occupiedthe Island for the duration of the war.
Fortunately her mother had relatives inWallasey, a town onthe Wirral Peninsula in northwest England, and for a short time they were able togive them refuge. Later they moveddown to London, but by the end of September1940 the blitz on London had become so bad they were forced to moveagain, this time to Sheffield where her mother had more relatives.However, in December, Sheffield also suffered a severe bombing raid, whichforced them to return to Wallasey on the Wirral, where they eventually settled inthe nearby town of Heswall.
London blitz Sept 1940- Sheffieldblitz Dec 1940
Situated on the northeastern tip of the Wirral peninsula,Wallasey is on the opposite side of the River Mersey to Liverpool, to whichtunnels and ferries connect it. Exceptfor its main populated areas of Wallasey, Hoylake, Birkenhead, Heswall andBebington, most of the peninsula is rural.The shoreline forms a Coastal Park consisting of cliffs, ponds, mudflatsand wooded embankments. On thesouthwestern side of the peninsula, the Wirral Country Park is home to wadingbirds, foxes and badgers, and like the Island of Jersey where she grew up, is amagical and mystical place. Traditionhas it that of old, Arthurian knights hunted here for questing beasts.
Opposite the school she attended was an area of moorlandwhere Gypsies used to camp and where Dolores spent much of her spare timevisiting and playing with their children. Shelearnt much about living in touch with the natural world from the Gypsies.She would also visit with her grandmother (called Bastol) who taught herto read Tarot cards and tell fortunes. However,when a neighbour reported Dolores had been seen telling fortunes at a local goosefair, her mother took exception and put a stop to her practice, but not beforeshe had learned quite a lot.
After Germany surrendered to Allied Forces in May 1945, inlate December that same year Dolores and her family returned to Jersey.Shortly after her parents formed a new occult discussion group but stillhad to keep it secret due to restrictions imposed by Jersey’s laws.While Jersey is part of Britain, it is self-governed by a LieutenantGovernor and a General Assembly who represent the English crown, and as such theymake and maintain their own laws (Evenafter the repeal of England’s old Witchcraft laws in 1951, theyhave never repealed their own).
By this time Dolores had returned to England to study atthe Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, during which for a short time shejoined a traveling repertory companyto gain more practical experience. Laterhaving developed a strong soprano voice,she moved on to study Opera at Trinity Collegein Cambridge. Afterreturning home to Jersey, Dolores made what she calls:“the biggest mistake of mywhole life," and gotmarried. The marriage lasted justthree years before she ended it and returned to Cambridgeto finish her studies.
During her youth in Jersey, Dolores hadbeen keenly interested in the sport of Fencing and had even represented theIslands against France and England in competition for which she won anumber of cups and trophies. Afterreturning to Cambridge, she again took up the sport and joined a fencingclub where she met her second husband Michael Nowicki. They were marriedin 1957 and while still living inEngland had two children, Tamara and Carl.
In 1961, Doloresmoved the family back to Jersey feeling it would provide a better environmentfor bringing up their children. Twoyears later after reading a book on spirituality, they made contact with the“Society of the InnerLight”, an esoteric order founded by Dion Fortune in 1924, and begantraining through their correspondence course. After completingthe course they were both formally initiated in 1967. A year later Dolores joined the “Helios School”, an off shoot faction of the Society founded byWalter Ernest Butler and Gareth Knight and began training as a CosmicMediator.In 1973 when Gareth Knight left to devote himself to other studies, theHelios School was renamed the “Servants of the Light” (SOL) with Butler as Directorof Studies.
By this time Dolores had decided to dedicate her life tothe Occult Sciences. She beganworking full-time for the SOL and shortly before his death in 1978, Butler namedher his successor as Director of Studies and her husband Michael as FinancialDirector and Guardian of the School. Sincethen Dolores has traveled extensivelyaround the world attending conferences and seminars and teachingon a wide range of esoteric subjects in her efforts to expand the schoolinternationally.
The Servantsof the Light
(ASchool of Occult Science)
The Servants of theLight (SOL) is a registered non-profit organisation in the UK with approximately2600 students located worldwidein 23 different countries. Themission of the SOL is to spread esoteric knowledge in an ethical manner to allwho want to receive it regardless of religious denomination, gender,nationality, race, age, social position or income.The School welcomes students from a wide range of traditions,including: Wiccans, Witches, Pagans, Christian nuns and priests,Shamans, Hermetists, Cabbalists, Buddhists, Isis-worshippers and many otherswith the premise that all paths to the Light are worthy of respect.
The School is not affiliated with any political or religiousorganizations, and as a registered non-profit organization, nobody gainsfinancially from the school. TheSchool has no offices or hired staff to be paid for, and not even the Directorof Studies gets paid for the work she does.There is no membership fee required to join the School and all teachingis free. The only thing you pay foris a low material cost per correspondence course lesson, and you will also needto buy one or two textbooks.
Teachingpractical methods of Magic, the Cabala and Occultism through its gradedcorrespondence courses, students aretrained through a network of Supervisors to become Friends, Guides and Companions, and after being formallyinitiated, Supervisors and Teachers themselves.To join the SOL each new applicant needs to answer a detailedquestionnaire, which is carefully assessed and psychically screened beforehe/she is accepted for training.
The School emphasizes that its training is not for thefaint-hearted and involves a great deal of hard work before anything approachingRitual or Magic is taught. Its First Degree Course iscentered on the Western Mysteries and uses the Cabbala asthe base of its teachings since this makes it possible to build bridges betweendifferent types of esoteric philosophies. Thecourse also uses Tarot symbolism and the symbolism of the Arthurian myths.
Consisting of fifty lessons the course contains writtenteachings as well as exercises and meditations each of which take about a monthto complete. The student keeps ajournal of all the work he/she performs, and on completion of each lesson, this issent to a Supervisor who assesses and comments on it. The aim of the course is to give students a comprehensivetheoretical and practical understanding of the ancient Mysteries.
Asthe Director of Studies, Dolores herself undertakes many workshops, lectures andseminars each year, traveling thousands of miles to meet with SOL supervisors,students and others, and so with a final word from her, adapted from herwebsite: “The SOL does notpromise a sudden burgeoning of psychic powers.It does not offer every student the possibility of becoming a High Priestor Priestess, a Magician or a top-flight Clairvoyant. It does offer graduated training aimed at the balancing ofthe inner and outer selves designed to make a student into a responsible, wellorientated, open-minded individual. Ifstudents have psychic talents, our training will awaken them and polish them,bring them under control. If theyare too deeply buried, then, at least, the student emerges with a well-adjustedinsight into the ancient Mysteries and a sense of being one link in a chainstretching back into past ages, and forward into the future.”
First Steps in Ritual (HarperCollins 1982)
The Shining Paths: An ExperimentalJourney Through the Tree of Life (AquarianPress 1983)
Highways of the Mind: The Art andHistory of Pathworking (AquarianPress 1987)
Inner Landscapes: A Journey intoAwareness by Pathworking (Harpercollins- 1990)
The Tree of Ecstasy: An AdvancedManual of Sexual Magic (AquarianPress 1991)
The Servants of the Light TarotDeck (with Jo Gilland Anthony Clark - 1991)
The New Book of the Dead (ThothPublications - 1992)
The Shakespearean Tarot (withPaul Hardy - 1993)
Daughters of Eve: The MagicalMysteries of Womanhood (Harpercollins1993)
The Ritual Magic Workbook (RedWheel / Weiser - 1998)
The Initiate’s Book of Pathworkings:A Bridge of Dreams (Red Wheel /Weiser 1999)
Forgotten Mage (ThothPublications - 1999)
Magical use of Thought Forms (LlewellynPublications - 2001)
Illuminations: The Healing of the Soul(Llewellyn Publications - 2003)
The Sacred Cord Meditations (ThothPublications - 2006)
Your Unseen Power: Real Training inWestern Magic (Sounds True Inc. 2006)
TheElement Encyclopedia of Secret Societies by John Michael Greer
EncyclopædiaBritannica Ultimate Reference Suite - DVD
PenguinHutchinson Reference Library - DVD
Microsoft® Encarta - DVD
Plusto many others to mention
Firstpublished on the 20th May 2011 © George Knowles