Monday, September 30, 2013

Magick: Why Bother?

In my earlier days of involvement in the Craft, I did not do much magick. Like many people, I argued that magick was secondary in the Craft and that the religious/spiritual aspect was the main objective. This is a perspective that I can no longer support. It is not that I believe that magick should take the front seat or that spirituality shouldn’t. Nope. At some point after I delved into practicing magick regularly, I had a paradigm shift.

I learned that magick and spirituality are not mutually exclusive. In our Craft, there is not one without the other. Regardless of the definition of the title Witch in which one subscribes to, and there are many, the relationship between Witches and magick is undeniable. Witches do magick. It is that simple.

What is Magick?

For some reason defining magick has proven to be exceedingly difficult. No really, it is. The problem is simply that any definition has exceptions to it. There are so many different theories, approaches, methods, and practitioners of magick that the best that one can do is to recognize that any definition is imperfect and to not worry about it too much. However, there have been attempts. After all, it is extremely difficult to teach, talk about, write books about, or practice something without being able to explain what that thing is to begin with.

Let’s look at some of the ones that have shaped my Craft:

“The Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”-Aleister Crowley

“Magic is the art of changing consciousness at will.” –Dion Fortune

“Magic is, as I understand it, the art of getting results.” –Gerald Gardner

There are many other definitions available, but these have three have both informed by own ideas about magick and the whole Contemporary Pagan movement to the extent that I feel it a disservice not to delve into them.

There are several commonalities to be found in each of these. It would appear that magick is an art, that change happens as a result of it, and that the will is involved somehow. That sounds easy enough. Dion, however, also mentions consciousness.

The consciousness at hand is dually understood. On one hand it is our own manner of thinking, and yet on the other hand it is the Mind of All. One of the core principals in the Art of Magick is that the universe is the manifestation of the mind of the divine; also we are the expression of that mind. So magic is the art of causing change to occur in our mind and as a byproduct the whole of existence as well. On the surface it all sounds very Existentialistic. The Witch functions magickally as the center of the universe, meaning that our perspective is that from which we view the world. This does not mean that existence is dependent upon the Witch to view it. BUT, the Mind that is the universe and our own as the expression of it are not disguisable. I am quite fond of a saying of Lon Milo DuQuette’s, “It’s All in your head… you just have no idea how big your head it.”

I feel at this point as if I have muddied the waters of defining magick… oh well, the water is nice and the swim fun.

Types of Magick

In the adventure of defining magick many have attempted to define it my categorizing it. There are typically two methods of dividing magick up; approach and source. The approach split is just that, the attempt to define magick based upon the approach or use of magick of the individual practitioner. Source on the other hand is based upon the believed source of the magick. Here are a few, but by far not the only ones.

High / Low Magick

High and Low Magick are perhaps one of the oldest splits defined in magickal practice within the Western Mystery Tradition. Subsequently, this rhetoric has found its way into the Craft, as least in some currents.

High Magick is usually used to refer to the ceremonial magick traditions that descend from the aristocrats… and likewise, Low Magick is the folk practices of the common folk. I am sure anyone can see the marginalization that exists in this split. It is further compounded because High Magick is usually considered to be the magick of spiritual advancement and Low Magick is the magick concerning itself with the “profane” desires of body, comfort, wealth, etc.

That is the original thinking behind these categories anyway. I personally don’t care for this division. It smacks of too much of better versus lesser, educated versus ignorant, and holy versus damned. There, however, are times when there is a need to be able to discuss the magickal methods that different people developed, which I feel can better be done by actually using the name of the group or individuals that employ it. Plus if truth be told, all magick is so deeply rooted in spirituality and the mundane that dividing the two is not really possible. There are some today that use the terms out of this context but are instead pointing out the amount of formality involved.

White / Black Magick

The division of White versus Black Magick is one where the moral motive the practitioner is called into question and the result assigned a corresponding color to represent good and evil. Nowadays this is a division that rarely gets lip service in the Craft, but on occasion it does arise. The Craft rejects the paradigm of good versus evil as a model of the universe, though both exist within the universe, we simple don’t see them as a matter of physics but of the human condition instead.

Magick is neutral in morality and whether or not the practitioner is ethical is irrelevant in understanding what it is. The subject of ethics is highly subjective to begin with and to try and pin labels of good or bad upon magick is impossible universally. With that said, it is part of the Craft for the individual Witch to continually shape, understand, and embody their morals in accordance with their ethics, magick aside.

Energy / Entity Magick

As you may have noticed we have moved on from the approach methods and into the arena of source. This split quite frankly is the argument between energy or entity, whether Gods or other, as being the source of how magick works. There are some very talented Witches in both camps.

The Craft affirms that various forms of energy reside in the universe. The energy model is one that seeks to directly tap into and direct these forces. Animistically the Craft also affirms that there is a spirit within everything. The entity based model argues that the methods of magick simply put these spirits to work for the Witch. Everything according to this model is the result of some entity to include any energy. For this reason, so the argument goes, the other camp is really just dealing with spirits.

But wait, there is a third camp. Magick according to some is purely and completely psychological both in effect and source.

Usually though, any given Witch stands in more than one of these groups. It is rare that one view is held exclusively. In fact, there are many that take up all three banners.

The Point

To me reading old books on magick is fun, and mulling over their contents a favored past-time. Similarly, I enjoy learning about all the different viewpoints on it. Maybe the different definitions I offered up earlier or the ways in which different people classify it help the curious passerby to better understand magick. Regardless though, magick according to the Craft does have a purpose. Magick is all about applied change management.

There is only one constant in life, and that is change. Change brings many things with it, and it takes just as many with it too. Magick then is the application of managing the change of life; and that is the point.

The magick that one finds in the praxi* of the various Contemporary Pagan Witchcraft currents is more specifically wrapped up with spiritual goals in addition to mundane ones. The Craft teaches that there is not a separation between the sacred and the mundane. All of life is sacred. The Witch chooses to engage with this sacred rhythm of change and to purposely shape their place in the universe. It is the Self for which the Witch applies their magick, and it is the Self that is managed.

It does not matter if it is the lighting of candles, smiling when the breeze brings relief on a warm day, chanting during an archaic evocation rite, praying for a loved one, or some other simple or elaborate act, each and every one of them is the application of magick and the reason for why Witches bother with magick.

Boidh Se!


“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”

*Is the plural of praxis ‘praxi’? Or maybe it’s ‘praxises.’ I dunno… but I like ‘praxi’ so that is what I am going with.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Autumn Equinox: The Death That Sustains

It is that time of the year again; the veil has begun to thin, the weather is shifting, and soon our beloved dead will dance the night with us once more. The astronomical Autumn Equinox doesn’t officially peak until September 22nd at 3:44 p.m. (Eastern Time), but the shift in the season has already arrived. The feel is not too different than that I experienced last year, though my annual evaluation was a week earlier so I got to enjoy the turn of The Wheel and not have to worry too much about my career on the side.

Usually when the average Contemporary Pagan thinks about the Autumn Equinox several things come to mind; harvests, feasts, and fall amongst others. All of which are important and intimately linked to this point upon our Wheel. In the lore of the Witch, there are specific mythological truths as well.

At this of our Holy Days, the Sun our Lord dies and enters the Underworld, the Lord of the Greenwood becomes the Lord of the Hunt, it is the Second Harvest, and night and day are equal in time. I don’t really think any of that would be much of a surprise for any practicing Witch. Myths, however, are relevant to our lives and express truths that exist at the core of the human condition.

Back at Yule our spiritual sun was born. The sun in this case is that part of us around which our life revolves. Throughout the course of the year we nurtured it, learned the nuances of our new identity, became inseparable from it, wore it as a crown over our spiritual kingdom, and began to reap the harvest that was sown by tending the needs of this aspect of us. It should not be hard to understand that the Sun Lord in our myths teaches us about each of these truths in turn with the Holy Days upon The Wheel, after all a piece of His divinity sits upon a throne within each of us. The story up to this point has been that of a happy life; he was born, played in the fields, courted his childhood love and married her, ruled over his kingdom, and lived to see the kingdom thrive and the fruits of his labor come in. Today both sides of this story take a turn.

As the Starks in Game of Thrones are prone to say, “Winter is coming.” Quite literally winter will be here at Samhain. For the duration of human experience the hardship of winter has been one closely linked with death, after all if one were not properly prepared then such could easily result. This is not the only winter in which is experienced in life. There are natural cycles with all things and the lore of the Witch teaches not only is the primary shape of existence a circle but that all of the various circles are linked into one all-encompassing circle, which is one of the reasons, but not the only one, that formal rituals are conducted within a circle. As such, in each part of life each person will experience many different seasons, to include winter. Our spiritual life goes through cycles as well, and winter comes at times, and sometimes an aspect of that life dies.  

Imagine yourself sitting upon a throne knowing what is on the horizon, and knowing that you have the power, through your death, to ensure that the whole of the kingdom is feed until your wife the Queen gives birth at Yule. This is the central tale around which the rites of this time of the year revolve. The Sun Lord must be sacrificed so that the whole may live; He is The Harvest, and He is that which will sustain us through the time when death looms so close. His death is not an end though, for he enters the Underworld and takes the throne there.

All of this is about us, on many different levels. Sometimes our winter is small and sometimes our winter is the failing of the body as we ourselves cross the veil. However; in regards to the story of our spiritual sun, there is more. Perhaps the most famous line in The Charge of the Goddess is, “And thou who thinkest to seek Her, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou knowest the mystery; that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, then thou wilt never find it without thee. For behold, She has been with thee from the beginning; and She is that which is attained at the end of desire.” Our mythos is a tale of our Lord and our Lady, and the mythos of the Sun Lord is specifically speaking to His journey and desire of Her. He is the first to have walked the path, He is First Ancestor. Mythically speaking he is our example of how we can come to know Her is our own journey.

It is at the Autumn Equinox when one of the many truths is revealed; the Witch comes to know Her by entering our own underworld. Like the Sun, we must delve into the inner landscape. The journey will not be easy, the inner work that is required to gain the throne over our own underworld will bring forth winter. The work of the Craft is not easy. If the storm is to weathered, a sacrifice must be made. It is a hard truth, but the false cloak of a crown over our spiritual kingdom in which immeasurable work has been put into must die, and in this death a harvest will come through which the inevitable winter will be survived.

Upon the Sun Lord’s descent into the Underworld, the Lord of the Greenwood becomes the Lord of the Hunt. No longer can the outside world sustain our needs in this journey. Now we hunt; we hunt the forest for prey and it is quick, weary, and cunning. The Witch on the spiritual hunt to obtain the mystery of Her is like the Sun that eternally chases the Moon. This hunt is not an outward one; it takes place in the hidden places. Second Harvest is what this Sabbat is about, the harvest that sustains. The Third Harvest is not the harvest of the fields, but of the culling of the herds, of the hunt, and when She enters the Underworld and grants sovereignty over the Kingdom of the Dead, for it is only She that can bestow The Crown.

May you enjoy your harvest, feast and be merry, and may the sacrifice that has been made sustain you! Blessed Equinox!

Boidh Se!


“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Secrets of the Craft Aren't Really All that Secret

The Craft is about shaping one’s life purposely and with intention. The core of which is done via experience, this is why the Craft emphasizes practice over belief. Quite frankly, when one is in the business of molding one’s inner lead into gold, belief matters little next to the process. The process is the how-to, the doing, and the experience of the mysteries.

These mysteries are talked about in passing, but rarely are they defined in such a manner that a spectator would understand the crux of the concept. It is not that people are dumb, far from it. It has to do with language and word usage. The mysteries are spoken of in a way that it conveys the idea that they are something kept secret, are known, and can be shared. As if the mysteries were some secret lore.

Let’s not get out of the woods too far just yet. Traditional Craft groups do have secrets, but rarely for the reasons popularized, and some of these groups even have Initiates only lore. This lore should not, however, be mistaken for the mysteries.

So what are the mysteries? Simply put, they are that which initiates the Witch. Again we are at a language impasse. It seems that when we speak of initiation, any number of things, often all at once, could be meant. As I know it, there are five usages of the term. I know, I know, I said three previously; but I have added a few to the list.

Initiation is:

-Joining a Group
-The ah-ha moments in life
-Any new beginning
-The integration of other spheres of influence with one’s own
-The formal introduction to a group’s spirit allies.

In our Craft, each one of these has to do with making a Witch and in a manner of speaking, is related to the mysteries. Ideally, at an initiation ritual, when one is at a new beginning, joining a group, they should have an, if not many, aha moments when their sphere is integrated with the group’s sphere and formal introductions are made to the group both seen and unseen. None of this though, is the mysteries.

The mysteries are most intimately linked to the second item on the list. Think of the mysteries as that which is revealed in the ah-ha moment of life; our own divine truth shining through the fog. In that moment of epiphany, one is born. This is why Traditionalists say that Witches are not made but born. Each and every Witch was born from the womb of the mysteries.

Here is where the water gets a bit murky though. The Craft as a process is designed based on experience to act as a catalyst to perpetually bring the mysteries to the cusp of the Witches’ sphere of influence so as penetrate their core, thus spiritually making initiation at the feet of the divine an experience that does not end. The practice is the key that unlocks the door containing the mysteries.

One of the follies that has permeated the human mind is the belief that we are the whole story. As if my story was The Story. It is an illusion though. Granted from a magickal stand point, the Witch is the creator and center of the universe and our story merges with The Story, which is a mystery unto itself. However, in this is the hidden mystery that we are all the same center of the universe. Our story is a group one.

Once the mysteries begin to seep into our consciousness we undergo the transformation that will allow the Witch to emerge. It is in that moment when the mysteries penetrate and saturate that the illusion of separation falls from the eyes. The title of Witch may be conveyed by a group, but the heart of the Witch begins beating at the touch of the divine; the ecstatic experience of which enlivens and thickens the Witch-blood.

The mysteries are both a simple idea to understand and one that just won’t quite solidify into form. This is why they are called mysteries though; they are hidden even when we look at them. The Craft’s solution is the same as that which is supposed to reveal these hidden truths, it is only by experiencing the mysteries that the Witch comes to understand them, and for this to happen we must engage the practice of life. There is no monopoly on living life and the Craft makes no such claim but the practice of the Craft at its most basic tenet is about living life and allowing the story of life to penetrate and fill our heart vessel.

Live life and make it a daily practice to celebrate the divinity therein. The divine can best be described as anything in which is worthy of our worship and adoration. For this Witch at least, life is divine and is worth celebrating.

Traditional Craft teaches that the axis around which this state of celebration can be achieved is through the passwords that allow one entrance to the mysteries. The moment in ritual when one is standing outside the ritual space is symbolic of standing at the gateway to the mysteries and when we are challenged by our fellow Covener , “How do you come?,” the key to unlocking the mysteries is in the response. So ask yourself, when you come to the circle of life, “How do you come?” Now think about your answer.

Our Craft is a practice thus designed; and it is a deceptively simple Craft.

Boidh Se!

“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

When Ghosts Decide to Visit My Daughter: Pagan Parenting Challenge

Having kids is difficult at times, no doubt few would argue with me there. In my opinion, having kids in a Contemporary Pagan home can be especially challenging. This statement is not meant to be a comparison by which other people’s difficulties are marginalized. The rearing of children in a Pagan home has its own unique challenges. The chief of whom I feel is that there is not a ready model handed down by the ages in how to approach the path through the woods, with kids in company, and how to gently assist them in finding their own heading on the spiritual map.

Last night one of my daughters, whom is five, stated that she did not what to go in her room because she had seen a ghost. Oh boy, so many things to consider. I am sure any Contemporary Pagans reading this can think of several, so I’m just gonna dive into what I decided to do.

First, I told her to wait on the steps for me and we would go up and have a look at her room. This was a stalling tactic, something all parents should be familiar with. Not sure if I would need to “exorcise” her room or not, at least for her sake, I grabbed a couple of supplies out of the temple room. On the way to her room she pointed out that the ghost wasn’t there now but she had seen it. Awesome news that was; I would not need my wand or to engage in any elaborate ritual on the cusp of bedtime. I decided it would be best to take an approach of warding. I then explained to my dearest daughter that ghosts have trouble crossing certain thresholds, such a moving liquid, and also that salt when empowered could create a threshold on astral linked to here that would keep ghosts away. I, of course, explained this in five year old language.

We then sprinkled salt across the doorway, window, and in a small circle around her bed. She also asked me to put some in the corners of the room “because things come together there and the ghost might get in.” I do love having little Witch-lets in the house; their worldview never ceases to amaze me. I happily obliged.

Once her room was warded with salt, thankfully I did not have to set guardians or do anything complicated, she was more than content to get ready for bed, assured that any ghosts that would be lurking about could not enter her room.

In retrospect, I think I did an alright job handling the situation. There is always something that could have been better; but for now, no little girl notions of the world have been crushed, fears averted, and any phantoms left un-harassed save for the no trespassing barriers.


Boidh Se!


“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”

Friday, September 6, 2013

Late Night Visit With the Mighty Dead: A Knock at the Door

Dreams are one the many ways in which I interact with the world magickally. For a while now I have been practicing lucidity and forms of astral work on the Dreaming Road. Usually if I do not instigate such work I don’t recall my dreams the next morning. Don’t get me wrong, I dream, often in fact. I just don’t remember them, that is unless it is important.

Last night while I was sleeping, one of the Mighty Dead, an Ancestor of Spirit, came knocking on the door. I mean this quite literally.

Earlier this year a Druid I have known for a little over a decade, whom had been active in Druidry/Druidism for the past 40 or so years and has helped to shape its core in this country, passed away. For those that do not know, Druidry, both British and American forms, have greatly shaped my Craft. For a long time Druidry was the foundation of my personal practice. This Druid, whom we shall call Druid Curmudgeon, an honorary title given to him by his Grove, was instrumental in the direction I took when first embarking upon the path of the Druid. He pointed me in the right direction and I will ever be grateful.

Well, last night I was dreaming, I don’t know about what, I had not planned any work and it wasn’t anything important. That changed suddenly. There was a knocking on my front door and not only had my dream shifted into the realm of importance but I was instantly lucid and aware of the importance of what was occurring. So I answered the door. The figure at the door was none other than Druid Curmudgeon, whom let himself in, walked into my kitchen, and told me to have a seat at my kitchen table and that we needed to talk.

Panic set in. Why? Cause apparently someone that is already nicknamed “curmudgeon” came back from the dead to have a sit down talk at me, note that the wording was not “with me” but “at me.” He had a quite bit to say, I’ll sum it up as “You are wrong.”

The slightly longer version being, I recently began to refocus my Priest work, again. Apparently the direction I was headed in with it was towards complete and utter failure, from Druid Curmudgeon’s perspective. Pretty much as soon as his message was delivered, I awoke. I spent almost the whole morning mulling over what had occurred and have concluded, via omens, intuition, and circumstance that it was indeed a message I need to heed.

Whether or not Druid Curmudgeon actually visited me upon the Dreaming Road or if it was something else, I dunno.  I do know I have a black volcanic skull I keep on my ancestor altar that I make offerings of Ancestor Oil upon once I have opened the gateway, and that I will do so and light a flame in his name.

Maybe I will see him on the Dreaming Road again, but maybe next time it’ll be less of a talking to.

Boidh Se!


“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”