Happy birthday to Robert Cochrane, founder of the Clan of Tubal Cain and the Cochrane Craft tradition.
Robert Cochrane was born as Roy Bowers on January 26, 1931 in West London to a family of eight children. He led a controversial life and even his death in 1966 is surrounded by controversy.
Not much is known about his early life because a lot of it cannot be proven. He claimed to have grown-up in the slums, but his family says they grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. He also claimed his family were witches from an ancient cult dating back two centuries, but his family insists they come from a Methodist background. However, as the Clan of Tubal Cain says, “These highly irrelevant questions become purely academic when we consider that any magickal system stands or falls on its intrinsic ability to produce results. The energy, virtue and exultation experienced during ritual are the only testimonies to authenticity you need.”
Cochrane became interested in the occult at an early age when he attended a lecture by the Society for Psychical Research
He formed his first coven shortly after attending the lecture, but it soon fell apart.
In the 1960s, he formed another coven and ran advertisements for membership in the Manchester Guardian. This group’s working became this basis of his Clan of Tubal Cain. His coven was based on mysticism and philosophy rather than a hard set of rules. He believed that the pursuit of knowledge was the purpose of life and the purpose of any religion. Their teachings were revealed through poetry and riddles, rather than facts and dogma. Their rituals were visions meant to help them understand Truth. Cochrane believed Truth was the Ultimate Godhead behind the faces of God and Goddess.
Gardner and Cochrane were contemporaries, but they were not friends. Cochrane disliked Gardner and his strict adherence to written rules and coven workings. Cochrane is the man who coined the phrase “Gardnerian” as an insult. He believed Gardner was a con man and publicity seeker and that his followers were no better.
Doreen Valiente was initiated into Cochrane’s coven after the two met in 1964. By this time she had already left Gardner’s coven, and remarked that there were things she liked better that what Gardner did, mainly the open worship of nature. Cochrane was not looking for publicity with his tradition of witchcraft, and Valiente admired this.
However, Valiente and other members became disillusioned with Cochrane’s attitude and practices. He began openly committing adultery with younger members of his coven. When he called for the systematic murder of Gardnerians, Valiente and others walked away from his coven and never went back.
Over the years, Cochrane had been corresponding with several pagan authors and other witches from America. The American Joseph Bearwalker Wilson took Cochrane’s teachings and mingled them with his own tradition to form the 1734 Tradition. Evan John Jones was an author who joined Cochrane’s Clan and later became the head of the Tubal Cain who kept the tradition alive long after Cochrane’s death.
Robert Cochrane died in 1966 from ingesting belladonna and other poisonous herbs. He left behind a suicide note that expressed his intent to kill himself. Some believed it was a ritual suicide where he chose to become the sacrificed god of Midsummer. Some believed it was an accidental death that happened because of his experiment with vision-inducing herbs.
Despite the controversy surrounding Cochrane and despite his questionable morals, he was still an influential man in the early stages of Wicca and the witchcraft movement of the 50s and 60s. Valiente describes him as a remarkable man with a magical power about him. “He may have been devious; but he was no charlatan.” Cochrane’s belief in practicing witchcraft and Wicca in a free-flowing manner inspired people to break free from the rigid confines of the Gardnerian tradition. This emphasis on the mystical search for gnosis rather than strict ritual liturgy made Cochrane one of the most influential rivals to Gardner’s Wicca and helped create an expanding legacy that is still going strong to this day.
For more info on the Clan of Tubal Cain, please visit their website:
Info on the 1734 Tradition:
Inner Circle Sanctuary
Inner Circle Sanctuary is a school for traditional style Wicca and holds eight sabbat festivals every year.