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The 1734 Tradition




1734 Tradition Witchcraft

by Doug and Sandy Kopf

The 1734 Tradition is based on the philosophy of Robert Cochrane, a British Witch, and is composed of groups who have adopted  that philosophy. The roots of  the Tradition are British-Celtic, although many of its followers have become more Celtic-Eclectic through the years.

The information supplied in Cochrane's letters to an American, Joseph  Wilson (along with letters he wrote to several others  during the same time period) form the basis for the Tradition we practice today. Cochrane also had articles published in several periodicals, which add to our knowledge of  his philosophy: Psychic Newsin 1963, Pentagram from 1964 to 1966, New Dimensionsin 1965. Another British periodical, The Cauldron, published some of his unedited articles in the 1990's.

1734 Covens do not share a common Book of Shadows , but Cochrane's letters have  served the same purpose and are passed from teacher to student in a similar fashion to the Book of Shadows in other Traditions. In addition to the letters, most groups have created a personal Book. These Covens, almost without  exception, require at least a year and a day (and a good amount of study) prior to First Degree.  They continue to read, research and evolve, as did Cochrane. Students are usually required to decipher the cryptograms 1734 and 1737, thus  discovering the Names of the High Goddess and God and to solve several riddles given  by Cochrane, as preparation for Initiation.

Various groups have accumulated more information, through visits to England or correspondence with British  Witches. Unfortunately, this has led to the occasional group thinking  of themselves as "more 1734" than others. Although this is probably a very human reaction to receiving new information, it is a less than valid viewpoint. If you  call Her, She will make you Her Own. More information  only leads to more puzzles and more questions to be answered.

We should explain that it is only in recent years that 1734 has been considered the name of a Tradition. It simply became  easier, over time, to accept and use  the name ourselves, rather than to constantly correct and explain to outsiders.

We also need to dispel some myths about the numerals "1734". First, Robert Cochrane did not "trace his Witch  Blood back to  1734" (as stated in Vivianne Crowley's book, Wicca, at page 21). Neither was this "the address of the original HPS", as was suggested in a BBS message some years ago. 1734 is also not the date of any  event  or the founding date of any organisation or order that we know of! 1734 is a cryptogram for the Name of our Goddess. Period.

Many of today's Covens seem to rely heavily on meditation and vision. Most work out of  doors whenever possible, use  dance and chant to raise energy and use Aspecting (a form of channelling) regularly. Cochrane referred to Covens as "clans" and "families" and, while hardly any groups today  have retained this anachronism, the  "family" feeling seems to be evident in all of them. On a side note: in spite of comments made by Doreen Valiente, we know of no 1734 Coven currently using any hallucinogen or  narcotic as an aid to ritual or vision. We rely on the  Gods Themselves to produce the special effects!

Further Reading

Each of these books has some insights to offer into the world of Robert  Cochrane, although none of them particularly reflect the 1734 Tradition  as practised in the U.S. today:

Justine Glass
1965: Witchcraft, The Sixth Sense; various publishers, London.
Cochrane's influence  can be seen in chapters 1, 10 and 11. Cochrane had given Glass much misinformation (see  page 121 of Valiente's The Rebirth of Witchcraft)

William Gray
1983: Western Inner Workings
, Samuel Weiser, New York.
Chapter 10 of this book makes use of much information given to the author by Cochrane, generously  mixed with material from unknown sources. We read this chapter thinking: "That's us", "That's not us",  "That's us, but he got it wrong!"

Doreen Valiente
1989: The Rebirth of Witchcraft ; Hale, London.
In chapter 8 of this book, Valiente writes of her own feelings about Cochrane and also gives what  are probably accurate descriptions of his rituals. However, if we are correct, (we have made comparisons with letters he wrote  to others at the time) her memories of dates and events are less than accurate.

She mentions  Cochrane "pulling Justine Glass's leg", by the way and, interestingly, he wrote to someone else saying he intended to do the same to  Doreen. So what is fact and what is not? Who knows? Cochrane was known for his  love of "leading people down the Garden Path" and seems to have done it well and a lot! (It really doesn't matter, since the system works, the cryptograms  work, the philosophy is a good one and the Gods are wise and  powerful! What more do we need?)

Doreen Valiente and Evan John Jones
1990: Witchcraft, A Tradition Renewed; Phoenix Publications, Custer (Washington)
This  book is well worth reading, as long as it is  seen for what it is meant to be, an overview of a system based on Cochrane's work, after thirty years of evolution. It should not be seen as a representation of what Cochrane did or of what U.S.  practitioners of 1734 do  today. We recommend reading both the Preface and the Introduction to this book, even if you are not interested in the rest.

Two points do need to be made here, though. First, the information on cursing (part 1-  chapter 1,  part 3 - chapter 2, and part 4 - chapter 2) may be something personal to Jones or he may simply be referring to the Rite of Banishment and/or Bindingas cursing. In either case, we need to say that Cochrane  strongly  advised against harmful magic and we don't do it!

We also need to point out that, as stated in the book's preface, the ritual scripts given are the authors' own, not Cochrane's. Cochrane seemed to have been very  shamanic and spontaneous.  Covens today work scripted or not, according to the Line or their own preference, but the shamanic flavour persists.

written by Doug and Sandy Kopf
updated: December 2, 1997
document 1734TRAD © 1997 Doug and Sandy Kopf

Here are some other things to look at:

A brief history of the 1734 Tradition, from a North American viewpoint.
Contact information, for 1734 study groups and covens.

You may also return to:

The index of English Traditions of the Craft.
The Beaufort House home page.