Living Life As The Witch ~ Dedication and Initiation In Wicca

Witchy Comments

What are “dedication” and “initiation” in Wicca?

These things mean different things in different traditions. Usually
“dedication” ceremonially marks the beginning of Wiccan study, while
“initiation” may mark full membership in a coven/tradition (such as after
“a year and a day”) or may indicate elevation in skill or to special
clergy status. Some traditions look on all initiates as co-equal clergy,
while others have grades or “degrees” of initiation, which may be marked
by distinct sacramental ceremonies, duties or expectations within the
tradition.

Some people claim that “only a Witch can make a Witch,” whereas
others say that only the Goddess and God or demonstrated skill can make a
witch. Doreen Valiente was initiated by Gardner himself, but slyly asks
“who initiated the first witch?” Valiente and others assert that those
who choose to “bootstrap” a coven into existence (by an initial
initiation) or to use self-initiation may do so, citing the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. Self-dedications are also quite common among
new practitioners and solitary Wiccans (“solitaries”).



~Magickal Graphics~

Good Tuesday Morning To All My Lovely Friends!

Friendship Images, Quotes, Comments, Graphics

Good Morning, my lovely friends! Lovely? Huh, don’t ask!  You know it is going to be one of those mornings when you find yourself drinking milk and eat cookies for breakfast. On the main page, were the pics alternate, you have to have a huge image to fit there. Well I have been playing in Bing for probably about an hour to find such a pic. I am scared to death to think there are two more slots for featured articles.

But seriously, I put on a new article about Hecate. In the process, I got to posting the “Charge to the Dark Goddess” and some poetry. So I got to thinking why not start the day off with the “Charge To The Goddess?” That is one piece of work, I can never get enough of reading.

Have a very blessed day, my precious friends!

The Charge Of The Goddess

Author Unknown

 Whenever  ye have need of any thing, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full, then shall ye assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of She, who is Queen of all witches. There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets; to these will She teach things that are yet unknown.  And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in Her praise. For Hers is the ecstasy of the spirit, and Hers also is joy on earth; for Her law is love unto all beings. Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever towards it; let naught stop you or turn you aside. For Hers is the secret door which opens upon the land of youth and Hers is the cup of wine of life, and the cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of immortality.  She is the gracious goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man. Upon earth, She gave the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, She gives peace and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor does She demand sacrifice, for behold, She is the mother of all living, and Her love is poured out upon the earth.

She who is the beauty of the green earth, and the white moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the desire of the heart of man, calls unto thy soul. Arise, and come unto Her. For She is the soul of nature, who gives life to the universe, from Her all things proceed, and unto Her all things must return; and before Her face, beloved of gods and men, let thine innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite. Let Her worship be within the heart that rejoiceth; for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you. 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.

 The Charge Of The Goddess

 

Listen to the words of the Great Mother: She, Who was of old also called among mortals, Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arionrhod, Isis, Bride, and by many other Names:

Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month and better it be when the Moon is Full, then shall ye assemble in some secret place and adore the Spirit of Me, Who am Queen of all the Witches.

There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery yet have not won
its deepest secrets; to these will I teach things that are as yet unknown. And
ye shall be free from slavery, and as a token that ye be really free, ye shall
be naked in your rites and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love all
in My praise. For Mine is the ecstasy of the Spirit and Mine also is joy upon
Earth, for My love is law unto all beings.

Keep pure your Highest Ideals; strive ever toward them, let naught stop you nor turn you aside, for Mine is the secret door which opens upon the door of youth. And Mine is the Cup of the Wine of Life and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.

I am the Gracious Goddess, Who gives the gift of joy unto the hearts of men and women. Upon Earth I give knowledge of the Spirit Eternal and beyond death I give peace, freedom and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all living and My love is poured out upon the Earth.

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, She in the dust of Whose feet are the
hosts of heaven, Whose body encircles the Universe…

I am the beauty of the green Earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the
mysteries of the waters, and the desire in the hearts of humans.

Call unto thy soul, arise and come unto Me, for I am the Soul of Nature, Who
gives life to the Universe. From Me all things proceed and unto Me all things
must return. And before My face, beloved of Gods and of humans, let thine
innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture of the Infinite.
Let My worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold, all acts of love
and pleasure are My rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength,
power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence with you. And
thou, who thinkest to seek for Me, know that the seeking and yearning shall
avail thee not unless thou knowest the Mystery: that if that which thou seekest,
thou findest not within thee, thou shalt never find it without thee. For behold,
I have been with thee from the beginning and I am that which is attained at the
end of desire.
by Doreen Valiente

 

And last but not least……

The Small Charge of the Goddess

By Doreen Valiente

I who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters, I call upon your soul to arise and come unto Me.  For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.  From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.  Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold — all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.  Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.  And you who seek to know Me, know that you seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.  For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.

Morality Of Wicca

Morality Of Wicca

Wiccan morality is ruled according to the Wiccan Rede, which (in part) states “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.” (“An” is an archaic word meaning “if”.) Others follow the slightly adapted Rede of “An it harm none, do what ye will; if harm it does, do what ye must.” Either way, the Rede is central to the understanding that personal responsibility, rather than a religious authority, is where moral structure resides.One of the major differences between Wiccans and other types of witchcraft is the Rede.

Many “traditional” witches or witches that follow other paths do not believe in the Rede. This is a major topic of controversy within the Wiccan and Pagan communities.Many Wiccans also promote the Law of Threefold Return, or the idea that anything that one does may be returned to them threefold. In other words, good deeds are magnified back to the doer, but so are ill deeds.

Gerina Dunwich, an American author whose books (particularly Wicca Craft) were instrumental in the increase in popularity of Wicca in the late 1980s and 1990s, disagrees with the Wiccan concept of threefold return on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the Laws of Physics.

Pointing out that the origin of the Law of Threefold Return is traceable to Raymond Buckland in the 20th century, Dunwich is of the opinion that “There is little backing to support it as anything other than a psychological law.” Her own personal belief, which differs from the usual interpretation of the Threefold Law, is that whatever we do on a physical, mental, or spiritual level will sooner or later affect us, in either a positive or negative way, on all three levels of being.

A few Wiccans also follow, or at least consider, a set of 161 laws often referred to as Lady Sheba’s Laws. Some find these rules to be outdated and counterproductive.Most Wiccans also seek to cultivate the Eight Wiccan Virtues. These may have been derived from earlier Virtue ethics, but were first formulated by Doreen Valiente in the Charge of the Goddess. They are Mirth, Reverence, Honour, Humility, Strength, Beauty, Power, and Compassion. They are in paired opposites which are perceived as balancing each other.

Many Wiccans also believe that no magic (or magick) can be performed on any other person without that person’s direct permission (excepting pets and young children who can be protected by parents and owners). Sometimes when permission is expected but not yet attained magical energy will be placed on the astral plane for the receiver to gather if and when he/she is ready.

What Is Natural Magick?

What Is Natural Magick?

 

Magick is a constantly flowing stream of energy. It is a concentrated and channelled form of the life force that flows through all animate life forms: People, animals, birds ,insects and plants of all kinds. The life force is also present in rocks and crystals in some cultures regarded as living energies, in rain, sunshine, the moon, winds, storms, the rainfalll and the rivers and seas. In Charge of the Goddess, written by the late Doreen Valiente who revised much of Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows, the high priestess speaks as the goddess:

I who am the beauty of the green earth, the white moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters call unto thy soul, I am the soul of nature.

 

This is a good summary of the powers of all magick, but especially natural magick that lies at its heart.

We receive and give out the life force in its spontaneous form through our aura, our psychic energy field that extends about an outstretched arm span around us. It also passes to and from our bodies through our chakras or psychic energy centers.These energy centers filter the aura energy and receive power from the earth beneath and the sky above us, from what we eat and drink and breathe and from those with whom we interact.

When you stand in the shallows of the sea and feel the waves pushing your toes, that sensation is the life force and the force behind magick. If you stand on a windy hillside and are tugged by the wind, that also is the life energy and the power behind magick. When you bury your feet in earth or press your soles against grass barefoot you are taking in the pure power.

Magick involves channelling and directing the life force by tapping into those energies in ritual and in spells and using the directed and concentrated flow to transfer thoughts and wishes (if positive) into actuality. This occurs in the same way that a strong wind can buffet you off course or the tide can lift you unexpectedly off your feet. It can be exciting occasionally to surrender yourself to the unchannelled might or nature and see where it carries you.

In spells and ritual, however, you structure words, images and actions to collect the power, and channel it into a named purpose. You can then amplify and release the concentrated strength into the specific purpose or area of the spell or ritual. In the release your wishes and focused thougths make the transition through the psychic sound or light barrier so you have the impetus to make these desired possibilities come true.

Beyond the Ethics of the Wiccan Rede

Beyond the Ethics of the Wiccan Rede

Author: Bill BluWolf

The Rede is known to many of Wiccan practitioners as the ethical underpinnings to be followed. While different versions exist, a common form is “An it harm none, do what ye will.” Most of the attribution for the Rede goes to Doreen Valiente, Alexander Crowley, Gardner and according to some, King Pausol. Regardless of the source, we are told we are free to do what we want as long as no harm results. It is important to note that the Rede includes admonishment against doing harm to oneself.

Another important consideration for ethics is the Rule of Three (Three-fold Law or Law of Return) . It states that whatever one puts out, it will return threefold. This is an attempt to warn the practitioner to do good works because it will come back to them three-fold. As an ethical consideration, it is not much different than the Christian’s “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) . These ethical sayings also ring with the idea of Karma; (to use the Christian saying) what you sow, so shall you reap.

Notice that the ethics so far are prohibitive. They tell us what NOT to do. I get a chuckle from Google’s company motto that echoes what we’ve seen: “Don’t be evil.”

For Wiccans, there is a few last important ethical guides, one is well known to many especially Gardnerians: The Charge of the Goddess. A Charge of the God exists, as well as countless variations of both. Wiccan Laws exist as well, in Gardnerian and Alexanrian forms. I’ll spare you the gory details about the in-fighting regarding the Laws. Needless to say, many disagreed with them.

While the Rede and the Three-fold Law are largely prohibitive, they do so by also telling us we are urged to do positive works. I personally like the Charge from an ethical standpoint because it tells what we should do. In this way it is proscriptive and not prohibitive.

Paraphrasing the Charge of the Goddess, Doreen Valiente tells us we should:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother.
Be naked in your rites.
Meet once a month under a full moon.
Sing, feast, dance, make music and make love.
Have beauty, strength, power, compassion, honor, humility, mirth and reverence within you.

Many have taken her words and adapted them to make them suitable for different audiences and to fit other purposes.

My chief complaint with all of these ethical viewpoints is that they are largely useless in practical secular daily life. It is what we call applied ethics. For example, I am driving down the road and a deer jumps in front of my car. I have seconds to decide; do I hit the deer or do I drive into a ditch or hit a tree? Ethically, I don’t want to kill a defenseless animal. Nor do I want to harm my car, a tree or myself.

As an improvement, there is an international program (which Boy Scouts of America and Cub Scouts use) have a saying; “Leave no trace.” It is used when outdoors and the intent is to leave the place how it was found.

Leave no trace could cover a multitude of other situations, such as greenhouse gases, carbon footprints, new roads and development in protected ecosystems to ocean ecology. It also tells us what to do. Lets think of a short list.

1.Recycle. Our world’s resources are not infinite. We should be doing good management of what resources we do have and not waste them. We should re-plant the trees that we do take for our future generations.

2.Leave what you find. While walking in the woods, we don’t take things like rocks or animals. What is with our preoccupation at collecting massive amounts of material things? Like leaving only footprints, we should only collect what we need.

3.Be considerate of others. Not only this applies to local wildlife, it applies to other people.

4.Clean up after yourself. In the physical sense, it means trash management. In the spiritual sense, it means know your craft and behave responsibly. In the mental sense, it means don’t dump on others, and have a healthy outlook and healthy relationships.

What other things could you add to the list?

Leave no trace is attractive as an ethical proposition because it tells us what to do and what not to do at the same time.

As Pagans, we should look for a more responsible ethical framework. We were here before the other world religions. Shouldn’t we lead the way in ethics?

There are other ethical sayings we could use. “Be my best” comes to mind. The big flaw I see is that my best becomes a crutch when people do bad things. For example, “Well I was just doing my best.” might be a common excuse when a pedophile molests a child. If honestly applied, I do think it works, but maybe we can do better.

The one I like best is “Leave the world a better place than you found it.” It is all encompassing. It is a positive way to say that we should strive to do good works. It covers things from acid rain to gun laws to abortion. It is very simple. A kindergartner should understand this concept.

In applied ethics, it becomes fairly easy to do the right thing. In the example of the deer jumping in front of the car, we can rationalize some choices. The car may hit the deer. The car can end up in the ditch. But it is the more general context that makes it an improvement. Why did the deer do that? Are the local deer crossing roads due to over-crowding? Perhaps we should install fences and control where the deer cross the road. Maybe we should allocate more forestland for deer populations.

“Leave the world a better place” allows us to explore options, and become better stewards of our environment. It creates possibilities that did not previously exist and makes us better humans.


Footnotes:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiccan_Rede

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiccan_morality

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_Three_ (Wiccan)

http://doreenvaliente.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don’t_be_evil

http://www.reclaiming.org/about/witchfaq/charge.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leave_No_Trace

Does Magick Work?

Does Magick Work?

Author: Silverwolf

Does magick work?

In this essay I will take a look at magick, and examine how and if it “works”. I am using the spelling “magick” as originally created by Aleister Crowley and will base much of my working definition on his original description.

Magick is at the heart of many Pagan practices, and is also a key difference between most Pagan practices and non-Pagan practices. Some may argue that prayer is treated much like magick in some religions, but there are some fundamental differences that I will investigate later. Given the importance of magick, proving that magick either does or does not “work” is a very relevant task.

I am using “works” here in quotes, because I believe that the term itself is somewhat ambiguous. There are two main components to magick “working”: how, and what. The “how” is the basis of what makes magick work. What mechanism causes it to be considered a success? The “what” is the end result.

Ignoring the question of how it works, do you achieve the end results that you desire? If it works by some mechanism differently than what you believe, but still achieves the desired results, is that still “working”? I propose here that it is the end results that are important, not so much the actual mechanism. In other words, if it works for you…then it works for you.

The premise I will start with, and attempt to prove, is that yes, magick does in fact work. That is, it does achieve results. Perhaps not the exact results that are always desired, but most explanations of magick include a belief that magick does not always work all of the time in exactly the way the practitioner wants. In this respect it is very much like prayer, and I am reminded of the old saying, ”God always answers your prayers – but sometimes the answer is no.”

There are three main explanations of how and why magick works that I will examine. The first is that it works through access to the divine. We get a God or Goddess to do our bidding and use our will to control their actions, giving us access to powers greater than that which we ourselves possess… The second option I will explore is that magick works because of basic scientific principles as of yet not fully understood.

To quote Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In this second category I include most of what we think of as supernatural forces today but may well have scientific explanations for tomorrow.

The third option that I will explore is that of the benefits of belief by the individual, and the ability to change yourself and your surroundings based on belief. There are countless examples of people in crisis or those who have advanced training (martial artists, yogis, etc.) and are able to perform feats of control over their bodies that seem impossible. It is exactly in this way that by believing something hard enough, we are able to rise above the limits of our normal lives. In this way, a belief in magick does, in fact, allow us to tap energy that we otherwise cannot utilize and therefore effect a change.

In short, magic does work and it works by one of three methods: divine intervention, supernatural/science, or psychology.

What is magick?

In this essay I am specifically referring to magick, with a “k”. Traditional views of magic involve the action of supernatural beings or deities, the use of specific spells or actions, and particular ceremonies. This is really not so different than the traditional church approach to prayer. So why is magick so different?

Magick, with the “k”, is a term originally created by Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) . This was the early 20th century and stage magic abounded as a form of entertainment and mystery. At the same time, interest in the occult was blooming and a number of high-profile occult organizations, such as the Order of the Golden Dawn, flourished. This was a time of Harry Houdini (1874-1926) and Aleister wanted a way to differentiate occult magic from stage magic. To this end, he created the term “Magick” with an extra “k” on the end.

In his book Magick in Theory and Practice, he introduces the term “Magick”. Crowley begins the introduction to his book with quotes from a number of sources including Pythagoras, The Golden Bough by J.D. Frazer, St. Paul, etc. so we see that he drew from many classical sources when creating his work.

Magick, as defined by Crowley, is “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.” What is particularly interesting is that the definition does not say anything about divine forces, spiritual intervention, or occult phenomenon. All it really describes is a cause and effect relationship, initiated by the practitioner.

Magick can be applied to anything, from mere mundane activities to chemical reactions, an example that Crowley himself uses. He tells us that “Any required change may be effected by the application of the proper kind and degree of force in the proper manner through which the proper medium to the proper object.”

Crowley further states quite simply “every intentional act is a magickal act.” This means that anything that we do as a result of our will is an act of magick. Traditional views of magic (k) had assumed a supernatural element. Crowley, however, defines it as any act that we will to happen. In this regard, magick is an act of will that could be carried out by our own physical actions, by our instructions or commands, or even the use of supernatural forces. The involvement of supernatural forces, however, is far from a requirement.

The beauty of Crowley’s magick is that it covers a whole spectrum of forces at our disposal. We use our will directly to make changes in ourselves. We use our will and employ the tools of science to make changes. We use our will and employ the tools of witchcraft to make changes.

To improve our health, we might use our will to exercise more. To travel from Boston to New York we might use our will and the tool of the car that we drive. Magick builds on the use of our will to influence common events in our mundane life, but then adds in the use of our will to control supernatural forces as well.

Others since Crowley have largely followed his lead on what constitutes magick. In his bookThe Mystic Foundation, Christopher Penzcak calls magic (he does not use the extra k) a process of creation. He believes that words have creative power and energy, and are important to the use of magic. Magic is about harnessing and directing energy. Christopher then explains that energy can come from words, thoughts, and actions.

In addition to internal sources, he believes that herbs, metals, stones, symbols and colors are also forms of energy. Magic rituals harness this energy along with the magician’s will to create change. He explains that magic is a science, but it is also an art and a skill. He also proposed that what we call magic today may simply be what is called science tomorrow and refers to Arthur C. Clark’s famous quote about how any sufficiently advanced science will appear to be magic.

Like Crowley, Penczak also believes that magic is part of everything we do and says that we are all doing magic all the time. The difference as he sees it is that a magician is consciously aware of it and uses it as part of his or her personal and spiritual path. He points out that different people call magic by different names: many Pagans use the spelling with a k to differentiate it, but magic is also the same as medicine to a shaman, or prayer to a catholic. Ultimately, Penczak sums it up by saying, “Magic is any change that conforms to a person’s will.” While the words are slightly different, this is exactly what Crowley said as well.

InNatural Magic, Doreen Valiente describes magic (also without the k) as being centered internally. Symbols, tools, etc. are all useful to strike a mood but are merely external aids and the real magic is inside the human mind. She says that, “The only way you can really change your life is by changing yourself.” She, too, then goes on to describe how it is the power of will that causes change – regardless of what paths or energies are used to implement the will.

Many other notable authors from the pagan community have given their own particular spin and explanation on magick, but they all pretty much come down to the same description: Magic is the application of will to effect change. How this change comes about may be simple physical action on the part of the practitioner, or it may involve the use of forces or energies not scientifically understood or explained. It is all about wanting something to happen, and making it happen. In short, being empowered and being in control of your life.

Magick: invoking the divine

Of the three ways of looking at magick, the idea of invoking and controlling the divine is by far the fuzziest. Are there Gods and Goddesses? Are there other supernatural forces? Do we really think that we have the ability to actually control any of these forces? Or at least to request their assistance and have them pay any attention to us?

This is a far deeper discussion than fits within the scope of this essay, for our purposes here we will simply assume that yes, there are supernatural forces of some kind and we can access them for our own objectives. The exact nature of such forces is not important here, but rather the question of exactly how we can access them and direct them.

Accessing a God is quite a common endeavor in human history, but it has often been in the form of prayer. The key difference between prayer and magick is that prayer is a request to the deity to perform some action, whereas magick is a command to the deity to perform a service. In the former view we are subject to the whims of the divine and exist to serve at their pleasure. In the later, we are equal to any Gods in importance, if not in power, and they are available for us to command if we can figure out how. This may sound egotistical, but consider the vast forces of nature that we have learned to harness such as atomic energy. Is it really such a stretch from controlling nuclear reactions to controlling a God?

With prayer, we are supposed to exhibit good behavior (and belief) according to that particular mythology and as a reward we may ask the divine for favors. Of course, as discussed earlier, the answer can often be, “no.” Bargaining with the divine is also popular in prayer trading a promise for future good behavior or some special action in exchange for a prayer being answered.

With magick, we use our will to impose a task on a specific deity. Most pagans and practitioners of magick support a pantheists or polytheistic view and will usually pick a specific God or Goddess that is particularly appropriate for the task. We might call to Thor to be successful in battle, or Aphrodite for help with love for example. Frequently we will employ some sort of ceremony designed to attract and then compel the deity to perform our will.

Magick involving deities is often referred to as “Ceremonial Magick” and is not something that is universally encouraged. Raymond Buckland describes ceremonial magick as dangerous and totally unnecessary. He does support asking the Gods to aid you with power, however, in the “drawing down” of the God or Goddess and bringing a surge of their power into you during a magickal working.

Is it possible to direct the actions of the divine? Or even to ask them for power to aid you in your working? Certainly it is hard to top the power of a God and so if this method works, then it can be very effective. It is extremely difficult to actually prove or disprove that it is possible in invoke deities. There are also difficulties in assuming that this works for everyone or even for anyone. How, exactly, do you control a God?

What happens when someone else directs his or her God to do the opposite of what you are directing your God to do (for example, two people who both want to win the same lottery) ? Will the Gods only obey someone who has enough self-mastery to not want power and riches? There are many reasons why it might be possible for us to command the Gods but still not be able to access this path reliably.

Magick: a force of nature

We have seen examples in popular culture such as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings where magick is a force of nature that can be controlled by people with special talents. In these three examples, the person controlling the magic has to be born into it although their powers can usually only be fully realized after training. In this worldview, magic can also be used to create magical objects that have their own power. Here the power does not come from any actual deity, but rather is a force of nature that some people have the ability to tap into.

Accessing this force is usually accomplished through the use of incantations, or tools such as wands that allow the user to focus their own magical abilities and powers. While there is certainly an element of willpower involved in using magic in this way, the right words, tools, or actions are crucial in making the magick work as well.

In The Golden Bough, James Frazer describes a classic view of the use of sympathetic magick, where we can control some target object through the manipulation of a second object. The two objects are linked, or have a sympathetic bond, and that is why action to one also impacts the other one. He then goes on to describe two basic types of this magic: contagious and imitative (or homeopathic) .

Imitative magick relies on the use of something that is similar to the object we desire to control, and assumes that by controlling the one object we can impact the target object. A traditional voodoo doll is a good example of this. The doll is created in a fashion to represent the target subject. By sticking pins into the doll, the theory is that we can cause pain of illness in the target subject.

Contagious magick, on the other hand, relies on the use of objects that have been in contact with the target object. Because they were once in contact with each other, there is a bond between them even when they are separated. Here, too, actions on the sympathetic object can be done to control the target object.

At the other end of the spectrum we can view these forces as scientific, rather than magickal. There is actually a very thin line between the two, and much of what is solid scientific fact today was considered magick quite recently. As noted in section 1, advanced technology is indistinguishable from magick. There is no science today to explain magick, obviously, or it would no longer be viewed as magick but rather as scientific fact. There, are, however, both technologies and scientific theories that point to the possibility of magick or bear a hint of action similar to what we think of as magick.

Let us consider how our will can affect the world around us without normal physical interaction. The brain creates electrical impulses during normal operation. It has not been shown that these weak impulses are capable of acting in any way on the surrounding environment, but they are there nonetheless, and are being broadcast to the world around us.

We cannot show that these affect anything, but we can prove that at least they are receiving the signals. It proves that there is at least a vehicle for our brain to communicate in a non-physical way with the world around us.

Quantum physics has been over-blown badly and many false conclusions drawn by people who understand only a little bit of what they have read about quantum theory. However, there are phenomenons in quantum physics that seem similar to some of our concepts of magick.

Entanglement, for example, tells us that two particles that are once entangled with each other will thereafter continue to reflect each other’s state even after they are separated by a great distance. While this does not prove any actual magick, it does show us how two objects, once connected, can continue to share a bond even after their separation. This is the same basic concept as contagious magick and shows that at least the idea of two objects sharing a remote bond is now in the realm of scientific theory.

Einstein once even went so far as to call this “spooky action at a distance”. Unlike brain wave activity, which is a measurable fact, it is important to remember that quantum entanglement is still part of a theory and while it is actually measurable as well, why it works is still being debated.

These are merely two examples where science has shown us mechanisms that demonstrate similar concepts to those proposed by classical magick theory. This is a huge step towards providing a scientific explanation for magick itself, or at least for making the more scientific among us to pause and consider before simply dismissing magick off-hand.

So if we believe some forces of nature support that magick, whether or not they are supernatural or scientific but unknown is a meaningless distinction. Clearly there are still many things that are unknown, and clearly there are things that are today labeled “magick” that may well be science tomorrow. This is a topic that has occupied entire books and this is, at best, an introduction.

One point that should be made, however, is how magick can exist when magick doesn’t work. Harry Potter can reliably and repeatedly make something happen once he has learned a spell. Witches in the real world often come up with mixed results at best. There are many ways to explain this and it does not in any way eliminate the possibility that magick exists.

Why can’t I win the lottery through magick, for example? Well, if we think of magick as our tapping into basic natural forces, do we not suppose that everyone else who bought a lottery ticket is doing the same thing, to greater or lesser degrees?

In this way, we are all countering each other’s magick. Unless we can assume that our magick is so much more powerful than everyone else’s combined, which seems unlikely in practice (Charmed or Bewitched notwithstanding) , we cannot force that outcome. It would be like a rowboat trying to steer an ocean liner. There is much more to be said on this topic, but the point of this example was merely to show that magick could, in fact, work quite well and still not work for us in any given situation.

Magick: tapping into psychology

The third explanation that we will look at is the value of magick through psychological results. This is different than the general understanding of magick as involving something supernatural, but is a legitimate explanation. What we are trying to examine here is whether the belief in and performance of “magick” creates results. If we go back to our definition of magick as being the application of will to effect change then we can argue for a wide variety of actions as technically being magick. In order to make magick really interesting, however, we should assume that in order to really be magick, the end result needs to be something that would not otherwise have happened without the use of magick.

With this requirement I mind, we can fairly easily look at magick as enabling us to control at least our own mind and body, and to a degree that we do not normally have. This could be anything from stopping smoking or losing weight to success in love or our career. If we are looking at psychological reasons for magick working, we can rule out looking at things that we are not actively involved in. If magick works because of psychological reasons, we can control ourselves to a heightened degree directly but that also will have an impact on our immediate environment.

In the case of stopping smoking or losing weight it is “just as simple” as getting the will power to stop smoking, or to eat less and/or exercise more. As anyone knows who has tried to do this, this can be easy to say and very difficult to actually do. We need to overcome actual addictions as well as deeply ingrained personal behavior. Using magick to achieve these ends is not unlike using self-hypnosis. The power to make the change is entirely in our control, we “just” need the will power to make it happen.

Impacting our environment can also largely be a matter of effecting change in ourselves. If we can make ourselves more productive at work, we will probably be more successful. If we can change our own behavior to be more attractive to a partner, we can improve our love life. These are cases where we can essentially change the behavior of others by changing our own behavior and therefore changing our relationship with them. As we change, and our relationship changes, their behavior towards us will then change as well in response. Here, too, we need to make the change in ourselves first, and these changes may be very difficult because again they may run contrary to a lifetime of habits or personality.

The power of positive thinking is not just a sound-bite, but it is a well-documented and studied fact. People who are optimistic are able to achieve more than people who are pessimistic. While this sounds like common sense, studies have shown that people who believe they will succeed are not just “more motivated”, but are able to actually tap into more physical and mental energy than others who believe they will fail. If you think you will succeed, you will actually be able to work harder.

Beyond the basics step of merely going faster, further, longer, or harder, there are many documented stories of the ability of people to tap into inner strength that is not considered normal. There are many stories of people who have prayed or willed diseases into remission, who have tapped into super-human strength to save a loved one, or even just to walk on hot coals without suffering burns. These actions are the result of achieving a level of control over the human body that we do not normally have. Here, too, the key is to convince ourselves that it can be done.

Self-hypnosis provides a framework for making changes like this, and the techniques are actually very similar to what we do in ritual when casting a spell. Key to the effectiveness of self-hypnosis is our own belief that what we wish to achieve is possible. If we do not really believe it can be done on a sub-conscious level, we can never convince ourselves to make the change. While it is probably mandatory to believe in order to direct the actions of a God, or to marshal supernatural forces to our will, it is absolutely crucial to believe in order to create change within ourselves.

While this explanation of magick involves the mundane instead of the supernatural, nevertheless it is also a path to extraordinary results that have been absolutely proven. If you convince yourself of results, you can change your behavior and even tap into extraordinary, but not supernatural, abilities. This limits the potential reach of the results of magick, but it also gives an absolute, proven path to results.

Magick in this case provides the enabling action to reach these goals. In order to convince ourselves that we have made the change, something has to happen to act as the agent of change. We do not simply wake up one day and say, “today I will stop smoking.” That is rarely, if ever, effective because we know that we are no different than we were yesterday when we were still addicted to smoking.

There needs to be some event that we can use to convince ourselves that this change really will happen. Magick, and a magick ritual in particular, provide us with the event that will allow us to convince ourselves that change has occurred. Because we believe that the magick is going to work, it does in fact work.

While it is actually our own mind that is making the change, we are unable to do it without the event that convinces us. I believe in magick, therefore the magick is going to work. I have now convinced myself (especially on a sub-conscious level) of the success of my effort, and therefore I am able to achieve the desired results that I could not have achieved before. It is not the magick itself that makes the change in this case, but rather our belief in the magick that makes it work.

Magick vs. prayer

In section 3 we briefly touched on the differences between magick and prayer. The main difference, as we mentioned, is that prayer is based on asking God for a favor, whereas magick is based on you using your will to make things happen. Even in the case where you are working with a deity, you are telling that deity to do something for you, not asking.

Beyond the differences in approach, and the differences in execution, this also reflects a core difference between paganism and mainstream religions: where control of your life ultimately lies. Paganism places your life in your own hands – you are responsible for what happens to you and for making life what you want. Mainstream religion places ultimate responsibility in their God’s hands. You can only control your life to a certain point, and beyond that it is “God’s will.”

Of course, there is a down side to having this control as well. You, and only you, are responsible for your life. You can’t shrug it off and blame your problems on God. Yes, the world may have plans for you, and you may have a path that takes you in a certain direction, but you can also take control of your own destiny through an act of will. This is the use of magick – to provide control of your life and your destiny.

Things may happen to you that you don’t like, but at no point do you have to sit back and accept that. While giving you control, however, it also takes away the comfort of being able to blame your problems on “God’s will.” Stuff happens, some of it bad stuff, but not because it is part of “God’s plan”.

Having said that, prayer can still be effective. If you believe hard enough that God is going to answer your prayers, you can approach the same mindset of confidence that is used to drive magickal workings. Certainly if you believe that your prayers will be effective, you can at least convince yourself and therefore gain the benefit of positive thinking. Whether or not that person’s God does really exist, prayer, too, can end up having a positive impact.

Magic for everyone

Ultimately, the question of why magic works is an academic exercise and really not relevant. The important thing is to decide that yes, in fact, magick does work. Exactly why it works is not important. The key elements are that magick does work and that it is a product of our own willpower. This is what and how, and to use it that is really all we need to know. Few people understand exactly how a cell phone works, but they are able to use it quite effectively nevertheless.

It is important to understand how to use magick, obviously, in order to get results. It starts with a will to cause an effect. Whether it’s our brains or cosmic forces or Gods that make it work after that is not important. What is important is that we can make it work.

Wayne Dyer wrote an excellent pop self-help book about using magick titled Real Magic. My description of his book is in no way meant to be derogatory. “Pop” as in “popular” or “popular culture” is actually an asset. If you want to study the history and details of magick as a scholar then by all means, head for the more serious and scholarly authors.

If you simply want to use magick to change your life, then read Wayne Dyer (or others like him) who reduces the practice to simple, will-based techniques. If you believe you can change your life, then yes you really can change your life. But it has to start with will. This is the essence of self-help. Only you can perform magick for yourself. It is driven by your strength of will, no one else’s.

Wayne Dyer’s approach strips away the trappings of mystical magick, and obviously avoids the Crowley spelling, and places the techniques of magic in common life. His approach is based in large part upon meditation and visualization: both very sound and proven techniques, and ones that are important fundamentals for any magickal practice. This simple form may not be for everyone, and part of your own ability to tap into your own magick may well require the trappings of ceremony and ritual in order to help focus and control your will. What works for you…works for you. How to best focus your will is going to vary from person to person and is something you will need to work out for yourself.

Caveats

There are a few caveats that bear discussing when it comes to magick. While it is true that Magick requires faith and belief to work, this is a double-edged sword. If you believe that you can achieve something through magick, then you are certainly more likely to achieve the end result because of your belief. It is also, however, true that if you believe you cannot achieve something because of magick then you are certainly going to be far less likely to achieve it. This could be because you believe someone else’s magick is blocking you, it could be because you do not believe that the magick is going to work for you for whatever reason, or it could be because you believe that magick cannot help you achieve your objectives. Belief in failure is just as damaging as belief in success is rewarding.

Belief must also be reasonable, and you must make sure you do in fact use the right tools. If you work magick to get a job but do not actually apply for the job, think of how much more effort the magick needs in order to make it happen. Always use every tool at your disposal when working magick. There is a lot of truth I the old saying “God helps those who help themselves.” If you are not willing to put in the effort required, why should the magick do it for you? Don’t pick ridiculous goals for your magick either, or goals where you know you are going to be pushing up against many other people’s magick. Winning the lottery is a good example of this – everyone who buys a ticket is pushing against the outcome – some are more powerful than others, but your own magick would have to be incredibly powerful to overcome all of those counteracting forces.

Finally, there are things that magick should not do. It is not a favor to prolong the life of a terminally ill person who is suffering. That is selfish, not helpful. Magick should not be used to bring about results for the wrong reasons, and should not be used on people who do not want its help. What you want may not be what others want, and it may not even be good for them. You cannot decide whether your unwanted actions will end up for good or bad, and you are robbing someone else of their free will. Magick should only be used for people or on people who want the help and agree to it. Otherwise, leave them to their own path.

Conclusion

I started out by making the claim that magick does work – for everyone. An explanation of exactly how magick works depends on whom you talk to, with a number of different beliefs and explanations. The main explanations given by practitioners typically involve either the harnessing the power of a sentient God to do your will, or the access to supernatural powers. Essentially the same as supernatural forces are scientific forces that we do not yet fully understand. Ultimately, however, the mere fact that the practitioner believes in magick makes certain that, at least to some degree, the magick will unquestionably work. Because belief in success does, in fact, increase the chances of success by drawing more effort and energy out of the believer.

Magickal workings are an attempt to influence events and make changes in the world according to your will. These results are in relation to you and your place in the world, so making a change in yourself (by increasing your energy) will obviously have a change in your environment as perceived by yourself.

Ultimately, how magick works becomes less important than the fact that magick does work. The only requirement, however, is that you must believe in magick for it to work effectively. That’s the key, and the only thing that is needed to unlock the power of your will. Just like when Peter Pan tells us that Tinker Bell will die if we say we don’t believe. But if we believe, then Tink will live.

Without belief, Magick dies, but with belief, a whole world of possibilities is open to us. To use another children’s story as an analogy, “The Little Engine that could” makes it up the mountain only because he believes that he can. Children know these things, and these stories resonate with them. Sadly, as we grow older we are taught to learn boundaries and restrictions and once we find out that magick is not real and not possible, then, in fact it does become unreal and impossible.

 



Footnotes:
References:

Crowley, Aleister. Magick: in Theory and Practice. Castle Books, 1970 (originally published 1929) .
Penzcak, Christopher. The Mystic Foundation. Llewellyn, 2006
Valiente, Doreen. Natural Magic. Phoenix Publishing, 1975
Buckland, Raymond. The Complete Book of Witchcraft. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2007.
Frazer, Sir James. The Golden Bough. Macmillan, 1922.
Aczel, Amir. Entanglement. Plume, 2003.
Keith, William. The Science of the Craft. Citadel, 2005.
Vaughan, Susan C. Half Empty, Half Full: Understanding the Psychological Roots of Optimism. Harvest Books, 2001.
Hogan, Kevin, and LaBay, Mary Lee. Through The Open Door: Secrets of Self Hypnosis. Pelican Books, 2000.
Dyer, Wayne. Real Magic. Harper Collins, 1992.

An Intimate Look at Ritual Pain

An Intimate Look at Ritual Pain

by Amanda Silvers

“A person can’t be creative and conformist at the same time,” J.A. Meyer, “Brick Wall”

The night is dark when we set out, with a cool silver moon the only illumination. I am blindfolded and bound as soon as we begin. I wonder where we are going, for one of the rules is that I must not know until after (and if) I endure the ordeal. It is a cold clear evening, and I can think of nothing save the knot in my stomach and the shaking of my knees.

We arrive at the appointed site; it smells slightly of hay, cows maybe. It is frigid and crisp, and I am beginning to chill; I should have dressed more warmly.

We enter some type of building; the blindfold is scratchy on my face, and I can’t see, but it is warmer, and I sense other people. I hear the crackling of a fire. My bonds are removed, and my coat and gloves come off; the others are silent except for the terse instructions, “Take off your clothes!” I am wishing I were anywhere but here right at this moment. I am freezing, and they want me naked? I vaguely remember them telling me this ritual was skyclad, but I’d forgotten.

I am naked now, and warmer, but still feel as though I can’t get warm enough. I kneel on the floor, which seems to be made of hard and uneven boards. My knees hurt, my shins hurt, my arms hurt, and there is a pain in my back that gets worse as the seconds fly by. I am cold and colder, and the hair on my arms and the back of my neck stands up like a dog’s hackles. I sense movement as they come for me.

I am afraid. I am inclined to say forget it, I don’t really want this. I have no idea what to expect and all of my worst fears flash before my eyes, as someone helps me to my feet. My stiff legs protest with loud cracks and pops, as I attempt to put my weight on them. I hope that I have used good judgment; all of my father’s warnings come back to me, scenes from Rosemary’s Baby and all of the stories about “Satanists” fly before my eyes. Can I trust these people? Do I know them well enough? I guess at this point I really have no choice. So I follow where they lead, carefully instructing me on where to step and when to stop.

I am in the circle now; no… not yet, I am nearby. I can feel the proximity of maybe a dozen people. I can feel their breathing, their excitement. I am still frightened, I am fidgeting and shaking like a leaf. I hear the priestess’s voice; it is familiar, and it comforts me. I hear her ask me if I wish to continue. I pause, then answer feebly “Yes,” and I am brought in. I can tell I have entered the circle because it’s so much warmer, and I feel it close around me. I feel momentarily safe; then I remember what I’m here for.

The ritual continues; some parts are familiar, and I pass each test. I say the right things by some miracle of my memory or subconscious, and then the time arrives for the ordeal. I am asked to kneel again on the hard uneven floor; my hands are bound behind me; I am bent over in supplication when I feel the lash of the whip.

The whip goes up with a whooshing sound and comes down with a crack that slices the skin on my back as if it were butter, and it feels as if I am bleeding. I feel the pain, and the pain from my childhood comes up with it, up from deep inside of me. It comes bubbling to the surface as I count the lashes and hope each is the last. I feel tears squeezing out through my clenched eyelids under the rough blindfold. A thought about whether they will see me cry passes though my mind just as another lash follows on its heels chasing it away. I allow the tears to come. I let the feelings surface, and I wail with the sound of an animal, a cat. I growl, and I resist moving away even as I feel my body grow warmer and warmer still. I think that blood must be running out of me at this point, and I pray to the Goddess that they will stop, as each of them lashes me with the cruel whip. I feel myself beginning to slip out of my body, and I hear my priestess say, “Stay with us, dear one, it is for naught if you go away.” So I try to focus my energy as I shift my weight on my knees, and the lash continues.

I don’t know how many times I was lashed that night. I do know I was really surprised that there was no blood at the end. It felt as if the whip was cutting me. There were some welts that went away in a day or two; I wore them as a badge of courage. Maybe it was the fear that made it seem so bad, or maybe something more happened that night than I can explain.

When this ritual took place, I was very young and full of myself; I thought I knew everything. I didn’t, of course, and the important thing is that this initiation served to point that fact out to me. I had begun in the Craft not taking it seriously, and after the ritual I felt charged, changed; I was a different person from the girl who set out that night. I knew I had endured, and my childhood pain had been spent like so many coins as payment for my innocence.

Humans have utilized, and continue to utilize, pain in ritual to accomplish different goals: as a ceremony of purification, as a means to an altered state of mind, as a technique to travel astrally, as a healing for past pain and as an ordeal to suffer and endure before being allowed to move from one level to another, as in my first initiation. Why do we use pain in this fashion? As Doreen Valiente said, “The reason we use the scourge, is that it works!” Pain stands as a proven technique for reaching the subconscious, raising energy and achieving altered states.

Pain is used as a marker for rites of passage. “The Olmec, Mesoamerica’s oldest civilization, provides the earliest, and one of the most graphic illustrations of genital sacrifice,” according to Wes Christensen. “A remarkable mural found inside a cave in the modern Mexican state of Guerrero, shows a crouching jaguar, symbol of the priest-king in later times, emerging from the stylized jaws of a serpent whose body, in turn, reveals itself to be the greatly enlarged penis of a human figure. The obligation of ritual blood sacrifice was one the Maya later shared with the other cultures that inherited Olmec patterns of ceremonialism.”

A similar rite of passage that continues today, circumcision is a religious ritual that has been practiced in both ancient and modern times to mark the transition from boyhood to manhood. Circumcision is practiced today in Jewish culture as the religious ceremony it is. Modern-day mainstream medical circumcision is one example of how society can embrace a religious ritual and change it into a medical procedure.

E. Royston Pike states: “Circumcision was practiced by the ancient Egyptians as far back as the Fourth Dynasty, or 3000 B.C., and probably long before that. The ceremony is clearly portrayed on a temple at Thebes. Circumcision is to be regarded as a ritual tribal mark or badge.”

Tribal or “gang” tattoos are popular with young people as a mark of their allegiance; they also use pain as a ritual to enter into the gang. Called being “jumped in,” the gang challenges and beats the initiate till they either give up, or until they can’t move. Some people die as a result of this initiation. It shows their level of commitment to the gang, as well as how tough they are. They wear the tattoos of the gang proudly, to show who they are.

The body’s ability to override the sensation of pain is incredible; when we are in pain, we manufacture natural substances much more powerful than most drugs. Some people get almost addicted to pain and body modification, as if it were a drug. Fakir Musafar is one of the most extreme body players that I have seen; he has been experimenting with all manner of body modification and ritual since the ’50s. At one point, he whittled his waist to a mere 14 inches in a reenactment of the rituals of the Ibitoe from New Guinea, who use the itiburi (wide waist belt) as a sign of manhood. Fakir says he “became an Ibitoe to see what it was like, and fell in love with the practice…. The tight waist training of the Ibitoe teaches them that you are not your body, you just live in it.” He adds, “Times have changed, people have changed. The way I see it is, people need these rituals so desperately; that’s why piercing and tattooing have blossomed. People need physical rituals, tribalism…. They’ve got to have it, one way or another.”

The majority of the rituals Fakir does are reconstructions of tribal rituals that have been acted out for hundreds of years, like those of the Indian sadhus who sew coconuts all over their bodies, stitch fruit with chains to their backs or hang by hooks from their backs. Fakir hangs weights from hooks in his skin, puts clothespins all over himself, dangles a large weight from his penis and lies on a bed of razor-sharp blades. He has accomplished numerous enactments of these practices, which he has documented with pictures.

When asked why he would want to do these extreme things, Fakir says, “We’re suffering from a lot of repressive conditioning, which you can’t undo in just a mental way. Most of it has to do with sexuality and sexual energy. If you get into any practices of other cultures, you’re bound to be involved with a lot of sexuality in other states and guises that aren’t even acknowledged as being in existence in this culture. And a good shamanistic answer to why do these things is because it’s fun!… I mean, what’s wrong with that? Is there a law against having fun?”

Fakir is also one of only a few white men who have performed the O-Kee-Pa Sundance ceremony, wherein the person pierces the flesh on his chest and puts claws, horns or hooks through it and hangs from the Sundance tree till the skin rips and he falls down, the duration of which may be many hours.

This ceremony was illegal and relatively unknown to the white man until the film A Man Called Horse; then Fakir and famous body piercer Jim Ward made the film Dances Sacred and Profane in 1985, in which they included an O-Kee-Pa ceremony.

George Caitlin in O-Kee-Pa: A Religious Ceremony, and Other Customs of the Mandans, published in 1867, writes; “An inch or more of the flesh on each shoulder, or each breast, was taken up between thumb and finger by the man who held the knife, and the knife had been hacked and notched to make it produce as much pain as possible, was forced through the flesh below the fingers, and was followed by a skewer which the other attendant forced through the wounds (underneath the muscles, to keep them from being torn out), as they were hacked. There were two cords lowered from the top of the lodge, which were fastened to these skewers, and they immediately began to haul him up. He was thus raised until his body was just suspended from the ground…. The fortitude with which every one of them bore this part of the torture surpassed credulity.” The ceremony used to be illegal; the government tried to outlaw the Indians’ rights to their religious rituals. Some of those rights were not regained in court until 1967.

The assemblage is held each year at the summer gathering or Sundance to take part in the ritual, you must be an Indian, and each year they change the location where it is held. I have spoken of the Sundance with several people who have performed it, and I have seen the cruel scars the skewers leave where they tear the skin. The scarification is a badge worn by those who do the sacred rituals, a reminder of the experience, a medal of courage, an imprint in their skin of the climacteric of their life.

When I questioned Bear-dreamer why he does the Sundance ceremony, he related his experience: “Our selves are the only thing we have to sacrifice. Everything else we offer to the gods has come from the earth; this is a way to give back to the Mother something which we did not get from Her. This way you spill your blood and endure the pain as your offering to Her.”

Everything comes back around; there is nothing new under the sun. In many cultures, we find people inflicting pain on themselves and others; with sadomasochism (SM) recently become a cultural phenomenon, this sexual/sensual practice seems to have reevolved. It has even progressed into a bizarre fad in the last 10 years. In the ’70s and ’80s, you had to really search for fetish clothing; these days, Madonna has made it a mainstream fashion statement. Studded black leather and chains appear on the runways of French clothing designers almost as often as in some gay bars. If it were merely a vogue, I wouldn’t be all that interested, but SM has grown as a sexual penchant for people from the hip to the middle class.

No matter what class or educational background you hail from, enduring pain can give you an incredible feeling of power: power over your own body, power over your circumstances. If you can refuse to feel the pain, or to react to it, you can control your life.

There is an exchange of power that happens in SM that I have yet to find in many other places. Some SM activity may be understood as a ritual “sacrifice,” the person being tortured sacrificing their power, pain or blood to the person doing the beating, cutting or piercing. Some people are in SM for the endorphins and the “high” produced by the person on the bottom (the one being beaten or whatever), which is empathed by the top, who then gets a contact high. This may also be true for many others in situations where they are inflicting pain, like phlebotomists, physical therapists and so forth.

What is the enchantment of pain? Why are young people nowadays piercing everything visible as well as many of the unmentionable parts? What about tattoos? Talk about pain! I am also a tattoo artist, and I get wonderfully high from the pain I visit on my customers with the tattoo machine it’s unavoidable. I ride their energy, their endorphins, for as long as they want to or can take it. It is a lot of fun, a harmless way to experience that high, and they gain something from it too. It’s far superior to drugs; I actually get paid for it, and it’s desirable all of a sudden, in a kinky sort of way! A tattoo as a rite of passage marker is a wonderful experience, as you may suffer from real pain as an ordeal, which is not unbearable, and it leaves a beautiful reminder of your process and transition.

The Craft has its own interpretation of pain in ritual; there are a number of traditions that employ flagellation. Doreen Valiente said, “Rumors and allegations have been frequent, that present day witches make use of ritual flagellation in their ceremonies. The truth is that some covens do make use of this, and others do not. Those which do, however, have the warrant of a good deal of antiquity behind them; the truth of which has hitherto been obscured by the difficulties encountered by anthropologists and students of comparative religion, in the frank discussion of this subject. The reason for this seems to be that, while strict moralists have no objection, indeed all are in favour, of flagellation being used for penance and punishment, to inflict pain and suffering; nevertheless, the idea of this very ancient folk rite being used in a magickal way, not to inflict pain but as part of a fertility ritual, for some reason upsets them very much.”

To learn, you must suffer and be purified. Are you willing to suffer to learn?

The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft states that “Religious mystics have used flagellation for centuries. In witchcraft, it is ideally light, slow and steady. Not all (witchcraft) traditions use scourging. Its use in those that do has declined since the 1960s.” The reason the scourging is ideally slow and steady is that it should build energy. It begins slowly and softly, in my experience, and builds over time in rhythm and intensity, so as to mount the neophyte’s rapture. Think of a musical piece that starts soft and slow and builds into a crescendo of power. It feels something like that.

In traditional Gardnerian and Alexandrian rituals, the scourge is employed quite readily to raise energy; there are numerous examples of this in diverse types of rites where this is apropos, for example during a third degree initiation. Gardner’s Great Rite includes three sequential scourgings. Some observe that he was a bit too taken with the ritual asceticism and hint that he was “kinky.”

Doreen Valiente replied to this, “What old Gerald had described is a very practical way of making magick. I speak from experience when I say that it does what he claimed it to do, and I don’t care about what anyone says about being ‘kinky’ or whatever. Perhaps it has become associated with ‘kinky’ sexual matters, but long before that it was part of a very ancient mystical and magickal practice. You can find mention of it in ancient Egypt and from ancient Greece; and no doubt you are familiar with the famous scene from the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii which shows a new initiate being scourged a point which Gerald referred to in Witchcraft Today.” Doreen added, “I disliked the elements of flagellation and bondage in the rituals at first, but I came to accept it for one good reason it worked. It genuinely raised a cone of power and enabled one to have flashes of clairvoyant vision.”

In my tradition, Sylvan, we used to practice ritual scourging as a suasion to dance the circle round, faster and faster. The high priest and priestess would stand bordering the circle of dancers and flail us with cats o’ nine, to make us step in a more frenzied manner, so as to elevate the energy. We were then a skyclad tradition, and when the dance climaxed, the priestess would motion and we would all fall to the floor as she funneled the cone of power. We don’t perform skyclad very frequently any more, and we don’t dance the frenzied circle as we once did. We do continue to use various methods involving pain as tools to an end, such as an ordeal in an initiation.

I find it fascinating that more and more people are finding the tool of pain an appropriate one to use, whether they be modern primitives, native American Indians, SM dykes or witches. We, as a national culture, seem to be attempting to reclaim our lost rituals. Humankind is beginning to reinvent many rites and customs, some including pain.

Pain can act as a doorway to other realms; it can take you places you have never been. It is one thing that can definitely move you from one place inside yourself to another; in the initiation I related, it moved me from my childhood to being a true believer. It has moved me in many ways at other times in other places; if you can endure, you can triumph. I have used pain as a tool for growth, for sensory overload, to achieve states of bliss, as a tool for illumination, for achieving astral travel, for inner exploration, as a tool for dramatic personal growth and for reliving and healing my past. These ceremonies have existed since the beginning; humans have a deep need for them, and to deny them is to deny our gods.

In the center of the circle stands a man; he has been challenged, has made the promises. He is asked if he desires the purification and the mark. He says “Yes” solidly, assuredly. People approach from three sides, a man and a woman go behind and beside him, to sustain him, to support him.

“By the fire that gives you strength, by the water that quenches your thirst, by the earth that holds the secrets of being, by the air that inspires you, by the fey that share their magic, the last stage of your purification has arrived…. You must call upon your strength to help you attain the center.”

The third woman stands before him with a glowing scarlet firebrand; the star blazes for a moment before she presses it to his chest. The smell of burning hair, a whiff of melting flesh, and it’s over. He does not cry out. He is transported; you can see it; he has a foolish smile smutched across his face that he can’t wipe off.

He is positively in the center now, of the gods. It is a night he will remember always, and particularly any time he notices the star-shaped scar the brand left over his heart.

For a moment, in pain, he was one with the gods. If pain can assist you in attaining the center, why not use it? I say it can’t hurt!

Paganism and Morality

Paganism and Morality

Author: Morgan Ravenwood

In a previous article I wrote entitled “The Joys and Pitfalls of Pagan Parenting, ” I repeated what my then-teenaged daughter, “Jane, ” said to me in response to my attempts to keep her on the “straight and narrow”: “But, mom, it’s not like you’re a religious Christian or something!”

I spent the rest of our conversation trying to explain why you don’t have to be a Christian to be religious and to believe in—and practice—leading a decent life. Fortunately, time and maturity has proven this to Jane, who now has three children of her own to teach it to.

In some of the online discussion boards I belong to, it has been mentioned repeatedly that many people believe that morality needs religion—and preferably the Christian religion–to exist, and vice versa. Of course, both myself and others, including some Atheists, have hastened to explain that this is in no wise true, presenting our own personal points of view and experiences as proof.

However, a member of one of the boards recently posed a question that demands an answer, both to ourselves as well as the outside world:

“So that we may learn how to properly judge those of other religious persuasions, specifically how are Wiccans and Pagans and Atheists supposed to behave in accordance with their beliefs?

How do we know when they are being true to their religious ideals, and when they are being hypocrites?”

A fair question, especially given that neither Pagans nor Atheists have the words of a prophet or set scriptures to govern their behavior. While I cannot speak for Atheists, where Paganism is concerned, it’s understandable that members of mainstream religions would find it odd, not to mention immoral, that some Pagans perform their rituals “skyclad”—i.e., in the nude–and even participate in what might be considered to be immoral sexual behavior, including homosexuality and polyamory (which simply means “more than one” lover).

The fact that there is no stigma attached to these in Paganism only reinforces this belief.

It is a sad fact that Pagan parents have had their children removed from their custody once their religion becomes public knowledge because Paganism has so often received a negative reputation as a religion with little to no morality.

In view of this, we are almost obligated to try to demonstrate as strong a behavioral standard as possible so as to build and retain integrity for our religion.

While we’ve probably all met a few “Happy Nekkid Pagans” with seemingly looser morals than most, the majority of Pagans I have known have led far more moral lives than many of their Christian counterparts.

I believe that this is due to the fact that some Christians are really only “Sunday Christians, ” named so because they crawl to church on Sunday and feign repentance, only to resume their evil ways on Monday.

But for us Pagans, it’s a little different; we consider ourselves to be “24/7 Pagans” because our own sense of honor and personal responsibility prohibits us from behaving in such a cavalier manner.

And what is the source of this personal responsibility, since it does not depend upon the threat of punishment from an angry god or a feeling of obligation to obey scriptures? I think the basic answer can be summed up quite nicely in three words: The Golden Rule. You know, the one that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The wording of this has been slightly changed but retains the same meaning in our own Wiccan Rede, which the majority of Wiccans DO adhere to: “An it harm none, do what thou will.”

To do any differently would be to harm oneself if one believes, as most Pagans do, that we are all part of each other as well as the earth. Think how wonderful the world would be if everyone practiced this for even one day!

Also, it is worth noting that some Pagan traditions, which are similar to Christian denominations, have their own set of guidelines that members are expected to follow. Though they are certainly not binding to ALL Pagans, nor do all of them adhere to them, The Thirteen Goals of a Witch, especially numbers one and four through seven, give very good guidelines for ethical behavior:

The Thirteen Goals of a Witch

1) Know Thyself

2) Know Thy Craft

3) Learn, Knowledge is Power

4) Apply Knowledge with Wisdom

5) Achieve balance in your life and everything around you

6) Keep your words in good order – negativity breeds negativity –

7) Keep your thoughts in good order

8) Celebrate life and all the stages of it

9) Attune with the cycles of the Earth and Moon

10) Breathe and eat correctly

11) Exercise the body as well as the spirit

12) Meditate everyday

13) Honor the Goddess and God

It is worth remarking that many of these mirror the behavioral guidelines as set out in the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, which does not carry the stigma of immorality that Paganism does. Yet another Eastern faith belief of importance to Pagans is Karma—that which you do, comes back to you.

Many Wiccans adhere to this belief, but with one notable difference: that which you do, comes back to you—THREEFOLD. Whether or not this is true, the reality of “cause and effect” is indisputable, which certainly prompts some serious consideration in making important decisions, particularly those that concern other people.

Another area in which most Pagans strongly attempt to behave responsibly is preservation of the environment. In these days, especially with a government and national population that are less concerned about preservation and more with maximum utilization, this is no easy task. And yet, believing as we do that the earth is our Mother, we each owe it to Her to do our share. Recycling, composting, and making responsible decisions about using products that are harmful to the environment are all things we can do as individuals.

Lastly, in the “Charge of the Goddess, ” which quite thoroughly lays out recommendations for responsible and moral behavior, Doreen Valiente wrote these words, which are dear to the hearts of the many Wiccans who aspire to live by them:

“Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you, ” and “keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever towards it, let naught stop you or turn you aside.”

Surely, nobody of ANY persuasion, religious or otherwise, could aspire to any higher goals than these.


Footnotes:
This article has previously been published on The Wiccan-Pagan Times website.

Brooms or Besoms

Brooms or Besoms

A broom is used by many Witches to cleanse an area of baneful* energies
before a rite. They can represent the air or fire element, depending on
each practitioner’s tradition. The staff or handle is considered masculine,
while the brush or broom part is considered feminine. This uniting and
balancing of polarities makes the besom a natural choice for Handfasting
rites. Brooms also represent purification, protection, fertility and
prosperity.

The classic images of Witches riding broomsticks may have originated from
ancient fertility rites. People would jump high in the air on brooms to
‘show’ the crops how high to grow. This is a form of sympathetic magick.

There are many other myths and associations of Witches with brooms. In
Ireland, the besom was sometimes called a “Faery’s Horse”. In medieval
times, the besom was equated with marriages outside of the church. So much
so, that it was recorded that weddings ‘by the broom’ were to be considered
illegitimate.

The broom eventually became a symbol of antiestablishmentarianism and and
sensuality. This led at one time to the word ‘besom’ becoming a slang term
for an easy woman. These associations may have been promoted by the church
to discourage marriages outside of the church.

Chapter 13 of “The Magical Household” by Scott Cunningham and “An ABC of
Witchcraft” by Doreen Valiente have additional information and lore about
besoms.

*Baneful in this instance is defined as energies that are not conducive to
the working at hand, are harmful, or are considered negative.

RE-THINKING THE WATCHTOWERS

RE-THINKING THE WATCHTOWERS
or
13 Reasons Air should be in the North
by Mike Nichols
copyright 1989 by Mike Nichols

Introduction

It all started 20 years ago. I was 16 years old then, and a recent initiate to
the religion of Wicca. Like most neophytes, I was eager to begin work on my Book
of Shadows, the traditional manuscript liturgical book kept by most practicing
Witches. I copied down rituals, spells, recipes, poems, and tables of
correspondences from every source I could lay hands on. Those generally fell
into two broad categories: published works, such as the many books available on
Witchcraft and magic; and unpublished works, mainly other Witches’ Books of
Shadows.

Twenty years ago, most of us were “traditional” enough to copy everything by
hand. (Today, photocopying and even computer modem transfers are becoming de
rigueur.) Always, we were admonished to copy “every dot and comma”, making an
exact transcription of the original, since any variation in the ceremony might
cause major problems for the magician. Seldom, if ever, did anyone pause to
consider where these rituals came from in the first place, or who composed them.
Most of us, alas, did not know and did not care. It was enough just to follow
the rubrics and do the rituals as prescribed.

But something brought me to an abrupt halt in my copying frenzy. I had dutifully
copied rituals from different sources, and suddenly realized they contained
conflicting elements. I found myself comparing the two versions, wondering which
one was “right”, “correct”, “authentic”, “original”, “older”, etc. This gave
rise to the more general questions about where a ritual came from in the first
place. Who created it? Was it created by one person or many? Was it ever
altered in transmission? If so, was it by accident or intent? Do we know? Is
there ever any way to find out? How did a particular ritual get into a Coven’s
Book of Shadows? From another, older, Book of Shadows? Or from a published
source? If so, where did the author of the published work get it?

I had barely scratched the surface, and yet I could already see that the
questions being raised were very complex. (Now, all these years later, I am
more convinced than ever of the daunting complexity of Neo-Pagan liturgical
history. And I am equally convinced of the great importance of this topic for a
thorough understanding of modern Witchcraft. It may well be a mare’s nest, but
imagine the value it will have to future Craft historians. And you are
unconditionally guaranteed to see me fly into a passionate tirade whenever I’m
confronted with such banal over-simplifications as “Crowley is the REAL author
of the Third Degree initiation,” or “Everyone KNOWS Gardner INVENTED modern
Witchcraft.”)

Conflicting Traditions

The first time I noticed conflicting ritual elements was when I was invited as a
guest to attend another Coven’s Esbat celebration. When the time came to “invoke
the Watchtowers” (a ritual salutation to the four directions), I was amazed to
learn that this group associated the element of Earth with the North. My own
Coven equated North with Air. How odd, I thought. Where’d they get that? The
High Priestess told me it had been copied out of a number of published sources.
Further, she said she had never seen it listed any other way. I raced home and
began tearing books from my own library shelves. And sure enough! Practically
every book I consulted gave the following associations as standard: North =
Earth, East = Air, South = Fire, West = Water.

Then where the heck did I get the idea that Air belonged in the North? After
much thought, I remembered having copied my own elemental/directional
associations from another Witch’s Book of Shadows, her Book representing (so she
claimed) an old Welsh tradition. Perhaps I’d copied it down wrong? A quick
long-distance phone call put my mind at ease on that score. (When I asked her
where she’d gotten it, she said she THOUGHT it was from an even older Book of
Shadows, but she wasn’t certain.)

By now, I felt miffed that my own tradition seemed to be at variance with most
published sources. Still, my own rituals didn’t seem to be adversely affected.
Nor were those of my fellow Coven members, all of whom put Air in the North.
Further, over the years I had amassed lots of associations and correspondences
that seemed to REQUIRE Air to be in the North. The very thought of Air in the
East offended both my sense of reason and my gut-level mythic sensibilities.
There are good REASONS to place Air in the North. And the whole mythological
superstructure would collapse if Air were in the East, instead. If this is so,
then why do most published sources place Earth in the North and Air in the East?

 

Ritual Tampering

Suddenly, I felt sure I knew the reason! Somewhere along the line, someone had
deliberately tampered with the information! Such tampering is a long and
venerable practice within certain branches of magic. In Western culture, it is
most typically seen among Hermetic, Cabalistic and “ceremonial” magic lodges.
It is common among such groups that, when publishing their rituals for public
consumption, they will publish versions that are INCOMPLETE and/or deliberately
ALTERED in some way from the authentic practice. This prevents someone who is
NOT a member of the group from simply buying a book, and performing the rituals,
without benefit of formal training. It is only when you are initiated into the
lodge that you will be given the COMPLETE and/or CORRECTED versions of their
rituals. This is how such groups guard their secrets. (And it is a telling
postscript that many scholars now believe modern Witchcraft to have “borrowed”
its directional/elemental correspondences from ceremonial magic sources! What a
laugh if this was Crowley’s last best joke on his friend Gerald Gardner!)

I remember the first time I became aware of such deliberate ritual tampering. A
friend of mine had been making a study of the so-called “planetary squares”,
talismans that look like magic squares consisting of a grid of numbers in some
cryptic order. There are seven such squares — one for each of the “old”
planets. While making this study, he began coloring the grids (more for his own
pleasure than anything else), making colorful mini-mosaics, using first two
colors, then three, then four, and on up to the total number of squares in the
grid. Six of the planetary squares yielded pleasing patterns of color. Then
there was the Sun square! Against all expectation, the colors were a random
jumble, with no patterns emerging. Thus, he began his quest for the CORRECTED
Sun square. And I became convinced of the reality of ritual tampering.

 

The Watchtowers

All that remains, then, is for me to assemble all the arguments in favor of the
Air-in-the-North model, which I have now come to believe is the CORRECTED system
of correspondences. The remainder of this article will be devoted to those
arguments, each with its own name and number:
1. AIRTS: This is perhaps the strongest argument. In Celtic countries, the four
elemental /directional associations are referred to as the “four airts”. And it
is a known fact that this tradition associates Air with North. While it is true
that some writers, familiar with ceremonial magic (like William Sharp and Doreen
Valiente), have given “tampered” versions of the airts, it is a telling point
that folklorists working directly with native oral traditions (like Alexander
Carmichael and F. Marian McNeill) invariably report the Air/North connection.

2. PARALLEL CULTURES: Although arguing from parallel cultures may not be as
convincing, it is still instructive to examine other magical aboriginal cultures
in the Western hemisphere. For example, the vast majority of Native American
tribes (themselves no slouches in the area of magic!) place Air in the North,
which they symbolize by the Eagle. (Aboriginal cultures lying south of the
equator typically have different associations, for reasons I will discuss next.)

3. GEOPHYSICAL: If one accepts the insular British origins of elemental
directions, then one must imagine living in the British Isles. To the West is
the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean (i.e. water). To the East, the bulk of
the European land mass (earth). South has always been the direction of fire
because, as one travels south (toward the equator), it gets warmer. Which
leaves North as the region of air, home of the icy winds of winter. (These last
two associations would be reversed for cultures in the southern hemisphere, for
whom north is the direction of the warm equatorial region, and south is the land
of ice.)

4. HYPERBOREAN: In fact, an ancient name for the British Isles was “Hyperboria”,
which literally means “behind the north wind”, thus associating north and wind
(air) once more. The inhabitants were themselves called “Hyperborians”, and the
phrase “at the back of the north wind” (the title of one of George MacDonald’s
faery romances) is still current. Of all the winds of the compass, it is
unquestionably the north wind (Boreas), bringer of winter, which is perceived as
the strongest and most influential (cf. Robert Grave’s goddess fantasy “Watch
the North Wind Rise”). You don’t hear too much about the other three cardinal
winds.

5. SEASONAL: Many occultists associate the four seasons with the four cardinal
points, as well. Hence, winter = north, spring = east, summer = south, and
autumn = west. (To be precise, it is the solstice and equinox points which
align with the cardinal points.) Again, in most folklore, winter is associated
with air and wind, as the icy blasts that usher in the season. In spring, it is
the earth which arrests our attention, with its sudden riot of blooms and
greenery. Again, south relates to summer, the hottest season (fire), and west
relates to autumn.

6. DIURNAL: Occultists also often associate the cardinal points of a single day
to the four compass points. Thus, midnight = north, sunrise = east, noon =
south, and sunset = west. (Please note that we are talking about TRUE midnight
and TRUE noon here, the points halfway between sunset and sunrise, and between
sunrise and sunset, respectively.) These associate nicely with the seasonal
attributes just discussed. It is easy to see why sunrise should equate to east,
and sunset to west. And, once again, from the perspective of the British Isles,
the sun rises over land (earth) and sets over the ocean (water). South is
related to noon because it is the moment of greatest heat (fire). Leaving the
“invisible” element of air to be associated with the sun’s invisibility, at
midnight.

7. MYTHOLOGICAL: In Celtic mythology, north is invariably associated with air.
The pre-Christian Irish gods and goddesses, the Tuatha De Danann, were “airy”
faeries (later versions came equipped with wings, relating them to sylphs). The
Book of Conquests states their original home was in the north, “at the back of
the north wind”. And when they came to Ireland, they came in ships, THROUGH THE
UPPER AIR (!), settling on the mountaintop. (It has always struck me as odd
that some modern writers see mountains as a symbol of earth. The crucial
symbolism of the mountain is its height, rising into the air, touching the sky.
Virtually all Eastern traditions associate mountains, favorite abodes of gurus,
with air. A CAVE would be a better symbol of earth than a mountain.) In Welsh
mythology, too, Math the Ancient, chief god of Gwynedd (or NORTH Wales), is
specifically associated with wind, which can carry people’s thoughts to him.

8. YIN/YANG: Many occultists believe that the four elements have yin/yang
connections. Both air and fire are seen as masculine, while earth and water are
seen as feminine. If air is associated with the north point of the magic
circle, and earth is east, then one achieves a yin/yang alternation as one
circumambulates the circle. As one passes the cardinal points of east, south,
west, and north, one passes feminine, masculine, feminine, masculine energies.
This alternating flux of plus/minus, push/pull, masculine/feminine, is the very
pulse of the universe, considered of great importance by most occultists. That
it was equally important to our ancestors is evidenced by standing stones in the
British Isles. At sites like the Kennet Avenue of Braga, the tall, slender,
masculine, phallic stones alternate precisely with the shorter, diamond-shaped
yoni stones.

9. GENERATOR: This argument flows out of the previous one. Practicing magicians
often think of the magic circle as a kind of psychic generator. Witches in
particular like to perform circle dances to “raise the cone of power”. Hand in
hand, and alternating man and woman, they dance clockwise (deosil) around the
circle, moving faster and faster until the power is released. This model has an
uncanny resemblance to an electrical generator, as man and woman alternately
pass each of the four “poles” of the magic circle. These poles themselves MUST
alternate between plus and minus if power is to be raised. This means that if
the masculine fire is in the south, then the masculine air MUST be in the north.
If the feminine water is in the west, then the feminine earth MUST be in the
east. If any adjacent pair were switched, the generator would stop dead.

10. MASCULINE/FEMININE AXIS: When you look at a typical map, north (the cardinal
direction) is at the top. Any north-south road is a vertical line, and any
east-west road is a horizontal line. Likewise, a “map” of a magic circle makes
the vertical north-south axis masculine (with air and fire), while the
horizontal east-west axis is feminine (earth and water). This makes logical
sense. When we look at the horizon of the earth, we see a horizontal line.
Water also seeks a horizontal plane. Feminine elements, considered “passive”,
have a natural tendency to “lay down”. Fire, on the other hand, always assumes
an erect or vertical position. Air, too, can rise upward, as earth and water
cannot. Masculine elements, being “active”, have a natural tendency to “stand
up”.

11. ALTAR TOOLS: In modern Witchcraft, there are four principal altar tools, the
same four tools shown on the Tarot card, the Magician. They also correspond to
the four Tarot suits, the four ancient treasures of Ireland, and the four
“hallows” of Arthurian legend. And, like the four elements, two of them are
feminine and two of them are masculine. The pentacle is a shallow dish
inscribed with a pentagram, representing earth, and is here placed in the east.
The womb-shaped chalice, symbolizing water, is placed in the west. They form
the horizontal feminine axis. The phallic-shaped wand, representing fire, is
placed in the south. And the equally phallic-shaped athame is placed in the
north. They form the vertical masculine axis. (The gender associations of cup
and blade are especially emphasized in the ritual blessing of wine.)

12. AXIS SYMBOLISM: In nearly every culture, the vertical line is a symbol of
yang, or masculine energy. The horizontal line is yin, feminine energy. When
the vertical masculine line penetrates the horizontal feminine line, forming the
ancient Pagan symbol of the equal-armed cross, it becomes a symbol of life, and
life-force. Place a circle around it or on it, and you have a circle-cross or
“Celtic” cross, symbol of everlasting life. (Please note the importance of the
EQUAL-armed cross. If one arm is longer or shorter, then the four elements are
out of balance. The Christian or “Roman” cross, for example, has an extended
southern arm. And many historians have commented on Christianity’s excess of
“fire” or zeal. Some versions actually show a shortened northern arm,
indicating a dearth of “air” or intellectual qualities.)

13. ASTROLOGICAL: The astrological year is divided into four equal quadrants,
each beginning at a solstice or equinox. And each quadrant is governed by one of
the four elements. Which element can be discovered by examining the exact MID-
POINT of the quadrant. For example, the first quadrant, beginning at the winter
solstice (north) is governed by air, which rules 15 degrees Aquarius, symbolized
by the Man or Spirit. The second quadrant, beginning at the spring equinox
(east) is governed by earth, which rules 15 degrees Taurus, the Bull. The third
quadrant, beginning at the summer solstice (south) is governed by fire, which
rules 15 degrees Leo, the Lion. And the fourth quadrant, beginning at the fall
equinox (west) is governed by water, which rules 15 degrees Scorpio, here
symbolized by the Eagle. Thus, north, east, south and west correspond to air,
earth, fire, and water, and to man, bull, lion, and eagle, respectively. If the
last four symbols seem familiar, it is because they represent the four elemental
power points of the astrological year, and their symbols appear in the four
corners of the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune. (The same
figures were later adopted by Christians as symbols of the four gospel writers,
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.)

If those are the arguments in favor of Air-in-the-North, where are the counter-
arguments in favor of Earth-in-the-North? Surprisingly, I’ve heard very few.
The most common by far is “But we’ve always done it this way.” Not too
convincing. However, no matter HOW persuasive my arguments may be, many have
countered that magic doesn’t lend itself to rational arguments. It’s what FEELS
right that counts. True. And there’s no denying that many practitioners do
just fine with earth in the north. Granted. Still, if they’ve never tried it
the other way, how would they really know?

My challenge to my fellow practitioners then is this: give Air-in-the-North a
shot. Just try it on for size. See what it feels like. And not for just a
single ritual. It’ll take several tries just to overcome your habitual ritual
mindset. And nothing is as habitual as ritual! So in order to give this a fair
shake, you’ll have to do a whole series of rituals with air in the north. And
go into it with an open mind. Like all magic, if you decide ahead of time it
won’t work, it won’t. Then, once you’ve tried it, compare it to your old method.
Ask yourself what’s different, if it worked any better, and why or why not. And
let me know. I’d enjoy hearing about your experiences.