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So exactly who is this Old Richard anyway, and why should anyone bother with him? Nobody can answer that but you, dear reader. From the words that follow, I leave it to you to form your own image based on your unique perception and your very personal analysis of those perceptions. In this, as in all things, you must find your own Truth. More on this in the forthcoming chapter on "Truth".

I am an American, at this writing 63 years old, living a quiet life of medically-enforced retirement in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I have been a natural mystic, a seer, for as long as I can remember. I am also a retired electrical engineer with a background in nuclear power. The combination is not contradictory. Indeed, an analytical mind trained in critical thinking, coupled with cultivated awareness and unfettered curiosity, is a treasure beyond measure.

I refer to myself most often as a cunning man, not as a direct descendant of the medieval folk-magicians of the British Midlands but as more of a handy general descriptor. My practice, like any other good magician's, borrows much from, and has commonality with, a number of generally-recognized schools of the ars magica. The root, however, in keeping with honoring my ancestry and connection to the red thread, remains essentially British/Germanic in style and substance. Witches are, it has been said, like magpies. Yet the quintessence of Magpie remains.

I began to experience perception of beings and realities outside the mundane human realm long before I had any idea of what I was dealing with. From a very early age I dismissed the concept of "supernatural" as being idiotic. Everything that exists is, by definition, perfectly natural.

When I was a child, I was blessed with the intellectual honesty of ignorance, untainted by preconceived notions or implanted doctrine. My family, while Christian, was not particularly religious and therefore I was able to approach what turned into a life-long vision quest with critical objectivity. I have found my own Truth. I share it not for you to duplicate, but as an example of what you must find yourself.

Popular fiction of the time fortunately played no part in the forming of my thought processes and perceptions. I found television  shows like "Bewitched" and films like "Bell, Book, and Candle" to be silly. I instinctively perceived there was something to this "magic" business, but I was, and still am, pragmatic and scientific. Looking back, it occurs to me that scientific curiosity coupled with my as -yet misunderstood peculiar experiences was the key to enlightenment. I was keen to believe nothing yet know everything. Quite accidentally, or rather by the consequences of my personal Wyrd, I had stumbled upon one of the building-blocks of Wisdom.

We can safely fast-forward through forty-something years of boring anecdotes and cloudy reminiscences about my studies and travels. My own journey can not be yours. Suffice it to say that I benefited greatly from the public emergence of arcane publications in the 1960's and was fortunate to have had conversations and correspondences with some profoundly wise and learned people. Many have now joined the Hidden Host, as I shall soon myself, others are still among the "living". There are some published authors I will recommend. However, by their own wishes (and common courtesy) my most important teachers and their words must remain beneath the rose. This is as it has always been, and as it must be. I speak for no one but myself.

I have no agenda beyond Truth. I have nothing to prove to anyone, nor any axe to grind. As a transcendent being, a spirit at one with the wholeness of all that is, I really have no interest in financial wealth, politics, mundane social constructs, or ego-stroking. Being a bit of a cynical old curmudgeon, one of the prime motivations for my writing this stuff at all is to get certain people to finally stop goading me to do so. Normally I am quite reticent about witchcraft on a personal level, and I am ambivalent about others' opinions of my craft. I simply am what I am, I know what I know, and I just do what I do. That is enough.

Corollary to this is my infamously low tolerance for public puffery, grand-standing, and fakery. I do not suffer grandiose fools. The wisest and most powerful witches I have ever known are also the humblest, polite, self-effacing creatures you'd ever meet. It astonishes me that with the supremacy of the subconscious over the ego being so essential to Wisdom how anyone worth their six-pence could possibly pose themselves as public figures of admiration. I truly believe that, put mathematically, anyone's craving for vulgar public adulation is inversely proportional to their actual worth.

So why am I doing this? Apart from getting tired of being nagged, poked, and pushed? No, seriously, it is because I must, for the same reasons that adepts teach apprentices and mothers teach daughters. It is a sacred duty that ancient lore and wisdom must not be lost. The cunning fire is a torch that must be passed on. Generations of magicians and historians have spent their lives lovingly and painstakingly reconstructing a cache of wisdom that was, for years, in danger of being lost forever. Real magic survived into the modern era only in things like the country water witches of Lancashire and Yorkshire, the Scots-Irish "Knowing Folk" of rural Appalachia, the Hoodoos and Root-workers of the American south, and so on. This wisdom is precious. It must never be lost. It never will.

I'm quite sure you have encountered, and will continue to encounter, much "information" along your merry way. I leave it to you, dear seeker, to separate the kernels from the chaff as you tread your own mill. The journey of the fool is, ultimately, a personal quest for Truth.

May you journey well.

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