Colin Couchman

Colin Couchman (1938-1994) was initiated as a Gardnerian witch in the early 1960s, and later he began working with Ruth Wynn Owen in her hereditary witchcraft system, writing a correspondence course on witchcraft. Colin was also involved in a number of other traditions such as Gurdjieff/Ouspensky and Kabbalah.

Articles about Colin Couchman

Colin at Cambridge

Colin studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University in the early 1960s. He was involved with the Cambridge Society for the Study of Religions and the Cambridge Heretics (becoming the President of the latter around 1962).

He was already a member of SES (the School of Economic Science), which at that time was working in the tradition of P D Ouspensky, having only just encountered the Indian Advaita Vedanta tradition which was to later become its main focus.

In Colin’s 1970 correspondence course, Introduction to Witchcraft, there is a lesson “About Joy” which contains a personal vignette of his time in Cambridge. He describes a ‘wide-awareness’ exercise of opening out the attention as far as possible to the world around (which could well have been part of his SES training). He goes on to say:

“Properly done, this should inhibit thought even as far as inhibiting the labelling procedure – (when you see a table the image arrives in your consciousness with a mental label “table” tacked on to it) – by filling the mental space normally assigned to thought with a flood of impressions. This gives the impression of seeing everything for the first time and makes everything look beautiful.

 When this state first “clicked” with the writer he was walking back from the Cavendish Laboratories in Cambridge to his College for supper in the very bad winter of 62/63, feeling the cold, when he thought he might try the exercise he had been given, there being nothing better to do. After a little while everything lit up and he suddenly understood why all this snow was a beautiful thing on Christmas cards. The next thing he did was to think, “Look, I’m doing it – I’m seeing everything for the first time!” and promptly walked into a lamp post. Next time it was given to him he knew better and left well enough alone – thought, it seems, is the deadly enemy of awareness.”

Colin and the Craft

As far as I can tell [1] Colin was initiated into Gardnerian witchcraft sometime in the early 1960s. The High Priestess of his coven gave talks to the Cambridge Heretics on a couple of occasions. It seems probable that this was Eleanor (Ray) Bone [2], who ran a coven in south London, although I do not have definitive evidence of this.

By the late 1960s Colin was working with the actress Ruth Wynn Owen [3] in the Plant Brân hereditary witchcraft system. The Y Plan Brân website explains that: “The Plant Bran is an extended family (hereditary) system of Worship and Wisecraft handed down to us through Gwenfran Gwernan. The word ‘Plant’ means ‘family’, and Bran is the Celtic deity of death and resurrection, son of Llyr.” (The name Gwenfran Gwernan was the name by which Ruth was known in the tradition).

Colin also appears to have worked with Joseph Bearwalker Wilson, the founder of the 1734 Witchcraft tradition, while he was in London in the late 1960s. If my identification is correct, Colin and his partner Marged were in the process of forming their own coven, modifying the Gardnerian tradition so that there would be more of a balance of responsibility between men and women. Joe attended their Full Moon rites each month and assisted them with several initiations.

Introduction to Witchcraft

In 1970 Colin wrote a correspondence course entitled Introduction to Witchcraft, a Basic Course.  The introduction explains that the course is designed to meet the needs of those who are just interested in finding out about the Craft as well as those who want eventually to join a Coven. It is designed to work as a postal course, made up of a reading list plus a series of about 20 short essays each including questions for the student to think about and answer, and sometimes some mental training exercises and do-it-yourself making of ritual and magical implements.

Notes:

[1] The information on Colin’s involvement with Cambridge societies and Gardnerian Wicca is based on the recollections of a friend of his, L S Cousins.

[2] Ray Bone features in an interesting article in Life Magazine from around that time, illustrating how the coven used to operate indoors and out in the countryside.

[3] Biographical information on Ruth Wynn Owen: on IMDB, on family website.

 

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2 Responses to Colin Couchman

  1. Pingback: Review: Introduction to Witchcraft by Colin Couchman | Historical Sketches in Esoteric Britain

  2. Pingback: Colin Couchman and Joe Wilson | Historical Sketches in Esoteric Britain

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