Clan of Tubal Cain

Clan of Tubal Cain Influential Witch mystery tradition founded by Robert Cochrane in England in the 1950s. The Clan of Tubal Cain, named after the legendary Hebrew blacksmith, Tubal Cain, was never intended by Cochrane to become a religion. Its concepts were passed to America in the 1734 Tradition and also were absorbed into the Roebuck Tradition and Ancient Keltic Church.

Cochrane, who claimed to come from a long line of hereditary witches, worked for a while as a blacksmith and also lived on a canal boat. The Clan had its roots in his own family tradition, as well as in the folklore he absorbed from blacksmithing and canal life.

Cochrane viewed witchcraft as a mystery tradition, not a fertility religion. The heart of his views was expressed in an anonymous article he wrote for Psychic News on November 8, 1963, entitled “Genuine Witchcraft Is Defended.” Cochrane said he was tired of tirades against real witchcraft written by uninformed journalists. He requested anonymity because of his wife and small son.

Excerpts from the letter are:

I am a witch descended from a family of witches. Genuine witchcraft is not paganism, though it retains the memory of ancient faiths.

It is a religion mystical in approach and puritanical in attitudes. It is the last real mystery cult to survive, with a very complex and evolved philosophy that has strong affinities with many Christian beliefs. The concept of a sacrificial god was not new to the ancient world; it is not new to a witch.

Mysticism knows no boundaries. The genuine witch is a mystic at heart. Much of the teaching of witchcraft is subtle and bound with poetical concept rather than hard logic.

I come from an old witch family. My mother told me of things that had been told to her grandmother by her grandmother. I have two ancestors who died by hanging for the practice of witchcraft. The desire for power may have been the motive behind the persecution of witches . . .

[Cochrane explains that during the Crusades in the 13th and 14th centuries, Islamic ideas infiltrated witch covens, and witches were members of the upper classes as well as the lower. ]

One basic tenet of witch psychological grey magic is that your opponent should never be allowed to confirm an opinion about you but should always remain undecided. This gives you a greater power over him, because the undecided is always the weaker. From this attitude much confusion has probably sprung in the long path of history . . .

[Cochrane then explains that witches are not part of a premature Spiritualist movement and are not concerned primarily with messages or morality from the dead.] …

It [witchcraft] is concerned with the action of God and gods upon man and man’s position spiritually.

Cochrane preferred the term clan to coven, and he openly despised Gerald B. Gardner and his followers.

The structure of the Clan was loose; rituals, which were shamanic in nature, were conceived as Cochrane went along. Inner planes contacts and alignment with natural forces formed the basis of magical workings. The Clan worshipped the Goddess and Horned God and conducted rituals outdoors when possible, dressed in black hooded robes. The Clan observed the same Sabbats and esbats as Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions, the dominant ones of the time. Principal working tools were a stang, a forked staff that represented the Horned God, a cauldron for the Goddess, a cup made of horn, a cord and a whetstone. There was only one degree of initiation.

Cochrane liked to use herbal psychedelics as part of his own practice; it is not known how many of the Clan followed suit. The sacred contents of the Cauldron were the Aqua Vitae, the Waters of Life, laced with fly agaric or peyote.

The Clan was never big. When Doreen Valiente was initiated into it in 1964, members included Cochrane (as Magister) and his wife, Jane, and three men. A woman member had recently left. Two women joined later.

In the 1960s, Cochrane began writing articles for The Pentagram, a short-lived publication. The Pentagram attracted the attention of an American Witch named Joe Wilson, who placed an advertisement in it asking for correspondence from interested parties. Cochrane responded, and the two exchanged numerous letters for about six months until Cochrane’s death by apparent ritual suicide at the summer solstice in 1966.

In his first letter to Wilson, dated December 20, 1965, Cochrane asked if Wilson understood the meaning of “1734.” It was not a date, but a “grouping of numerals that means something to a ‘witch,'” he said. He explained that 1734 is the witch way of saying YHVH (Yod He Vau He), the Tetragrammaton, or holiest name of God. One becomes seven states of wisdom, represented by the Goddess of the Cauldron. Three are the Queens of the elements (water, air and earth — fire belongs to man); and four are the Queens of the Wind Gods.

Cochrane believed that America had the right mystical underpinnings — the stars on the American flag are pentagrams, he pointed out — and he liked the rapport with Wilson. He transmitted his philosophy and some of his rituals in his letters.

Cochrane was fond of teaching in riddles, poems, dream images and mysteries. “There is no hard and fast teaching technique, no laid down scripture or law, for wisdom comes only to those who deserve it, and your teacher is yourself seen through a mirror darkly,” he told Wilson. He signed many of his letters “Flags Flax and Fodder,” which he translated as a blessing by water, air and earth.

Toward the end of his life, Cochrane wrote a witch’s code of ethics:

Do not do what you desire — do what is necessary. Take all you are given — give all of yourself. “What I have— I hold!” When all is lost, and not until then, prepare to die with dignity . . . and return to the womb of the Dark Goddess to give life another try until the wheel of rebirth is finally broken.

After Cochrane’s death, Wilson founded the 1734 Tradition. In 1969, he travelled to England while enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was able to meet some of Cochrane’s clan members. The 1734 Tradition is a family of covens with roots to the Clan of Tubal Cain, integrated with the teachings and ideas of other streams of Wicca and Paganism. It does not have an initiation lineage by authority; one can join without being initiated by an elder. Wilson died in 2004.

In 1976, Americans David and Ann Finnin founded the Roebuck Tradition based on the 1734 Tradition. In 1982, English magician William S. Gray, a friend of Cochrane’s, put the Finnins in touch with Evan John Jones, one of the original Clan members. The Finnins served a two-year apprenticeship with Jones and were adopted into the Clan with the power to carry it to America. In 1989, the Roebuck incorporated as the Ancient Keltic Church, based in Tujunga, California.

Further Reading:

  • Clifton, Chas. A. “The 1734 Tradition in North America.” Available online. URL: https://www.witch- html? a=usco&c=trads&id=335 6. Posted March 18, 2001. Downloaded October 2, 2007.
  • Cochrane, Robert, and Evan John Jones. The Robert Cochrane Letters: An Insight into Modern Traditional Witchcraft. Somerset, England: Capall Bann Publishing, 2001.
  • Finnin, David. “The Roebuck Tradition.” Available online. URL: va.html?a=usca&c=trads&id=3380. Posted April 7, 2001. Downloaded October 2, 2007.
  • Hutton, Ronald. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Valiente, Doreen. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. London: Robert Hale, 1989.

See also


The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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