Monday, September 30, 2013

Further Thoughts About Witchcraft

For many years now I have been a lineage head and an elder of my specific branch and line of Alexandrian witchcraft. This role has given me quite a bit of latitude in developing and establishing a set of witchcraft lore that I felt was true to spirit of what my old coven had been attempting to forge all those years ago when I was under the leadership of Christopher and Alexandria, our coven leaders. Of course, as the story goes, these two individuals left witchcraft and paganism to become leaders of an ersatz fundamentalism and to pen a notorious book (“Wicca: Satan’s Little White Lie” by Bill Schnoebelen), which left me as the defacto head of that initiatic line. Some have commented that such a schism would (or should) have nullified my line altogether, and others have said that what I have as a tradition is of questionable value, considering what my teachers later achieved.

As a result, my line has the dubious distinction of being not only considered fraudulent, but all my practices and opinions are also said to be spurious and automatically disqualified. I have certainly annoyed some individuals with my overly liberal viewpoints and my belief that witchcraft has a long period of change and development ahead of it before it can become a truly deep and profound spiritual path. Those who seek a comfortable orthodoxy and stasis within witchcraft are actually doing that tradition far more harm than good. Thus I am perceived as a gad-fly to traditionalists, or worse, as a borderline apostate.  

However, I have always made the point that we shouldn’t be isolated practitioners and that we should receive, from time to time, some kind of peer review from others who are qualified to make a proper judgement of our work. This kind of objective examination should apply to everything that a witch or pagan believes or does in their practice and within their spiritual discipline. I have found such a one to examine my work as a witch and a lineage holder, and perhaps this opinion, which I intend to share with my readers, will at least silence the pundits who think that I have produced a variant of Alexandrian witchcraft that is spurious, deviant and invalid.

Over the years I had assembled, refined and produced a written document containing not only my biography, but also the specific additions and refinements I found necessary to run a well established coven and lineage. This document is extremely confidential, and I only share it with individuals who are part of my line, which until recently, has been those women and men (via an acting High Priestess) who were initiated into my line. I am proud of what I have been able to assemble, and all of the rituals included have been used and refined over many years. I can’t discuss any of the contents of this document, but if someone were to judge my work and my line, this document would be the source for that examination.

Recently, I have been in communication with an individual who would be considered the actual head of my overall lineage, although he is no longer practicing the craft. I shared my lineage document with him and requested his opinion and input about what I had established as my particular line and its associated practices. I got his permission to share with my readers his judgement on my work, although he has asked to remain anonymous and wished to be referred to by his old craft name “Summanus.” Here is what he had to say about my lineage document.

I very much enjoyed your account, especially the way in which you’ve fleshed out the bare bones of the original Alexandrian BoS - that has always needed to be done. The very paucity of the initial material (‘is this all there is?’) naturally spurred a great many initiates wanting something more than initiations and short seasonal rites to try their hand at extended development - Alex included - which generally had regrettable results, as they usually left the original Wiccan spirit behind and flew off into ever more complex and idiosyncratic fantasies.

You have done an admirable job of keeping to the script and reinforcing the tropes that attracted people to Wicca in the first place, while offering what appears to be a far more multifaceted ritual system for those initiates that desire that sort of thing. I also found your occult life trajectory interesting and familiar as well - the fixed reality of nearly everyone’s esoteric career are the occurrence of internecine disputes, group founding and dissolution (coagula and solve?), disappointment and re-energizing, but many drop out.. without achieving what you have done - congratulations!

Summanus 08/08/2013

As you can see by the above comments, my lineage document and work has been validated by someone who has the knowledge, objectivity, and experience to properly judge me. Hopefully, his comments will put to rest any opinions, whether within my line or outside of it, that I have somehow egregiously deviated from the foundation of my tradition. While I have built up an entire system of magic from that foundation, my Book of Shadows and my lineage document are what I pass on to others who initiate into my line. I have faithfully kept all of this material properly accounted for and distinguished from the basic Alexandrian tradition and the elements that were added to it. That is all that I am expected to do, and that knowledge is passed on to those who I choose to initiate (or those who are initiated by High Priestesses in my line). What I don’t do, nor do I advocate for others to do, is to just stop there and merely perform the same rites and the same workings year in and year out. I have a foundational tradition, but what I normally do is well above and beyond it, even though it is the point of origin for everything that I do today.

Wicca vs. Witchcraft

This brings me to my second topic as I think about witchcraft, and that is the troubling split between the craft part of witchcraft and Wicca as a pagan based religion. Witchcraft is a tradition consisting of techniques and methods of working magic as well as an immersion within the modern revival of paganism. Some might link up the magical practices of bush-craft or cunning craft with that of modern witchcraft, and they wouldn’t be wrong to do so. What saddens me is to encounter those who are adherents of Wicca who eschew any form of magic. I was taught that in order to be a witch you had to practice witchcraft, and that meant that you had to know and practice magic. To me, Wicca is just a variety of witchcraft, yet without the practice of magic, it becomes something of a milk-toast or watered down version of a harmless neopagan religion. If you consider yourself a witch, then you need to know and practice witchcraft magic - it’s as simple as that. 

As you might know from what I have written in the past, I believe that a witch is someone who is both an adherent of modern paganism (Wicca) and also a knowledgeable practitioner of ritual magick. I am not talking about ceremonial magick, of course, although that could be part of what one might know or even practice. I am talking about both high and low magic that is based on the foundation of modern paganism and the crafty part of witchcraft. Low magic is aptly represented these days by hoodoo, which I find acceptable as long as the more obvious Christian elements are removed or better yet, replaced with pagan deities. Earthy witchcraft practitioners would include the Gods in their magical workings, even though some forms of Hoodoo don’t involve any religious elements at all, or do so in a very oblique manner. Followers of Wicca have the dispensation to produce charged items and certain sacraments, and these can be powerfully employed in a very effective form of low magic.

Gardner, in his fictional work, “High Magic’s Aid” gives the witch the all important role and function of being the wielder of a consecrated blade, and it is to be assumed from that story that witches could consecrate other items as well to be used in a high magic working. We can assume that opinion is what Gardner held regarding Wicca and high magic. Grimoires from the Renaissance and later periods directed the magician to get his vestments and tools consecrated by an ordained priest, but of course, such an individual would hardly engage in performing such a dubious without asking a lot of questions. A witch, on the other hand (if we use this logic) would have no such qualms, being herself a practitioner of low or earth-based magic. According to the logic presented by Gardner, a witch would be in the perfect position to master high magic as well as perform low magic.

Now, when I differentiate between low and high magic, I make no condescending judgement upon what I define as low or earth-based magic while behaving like a snob and elevating what I call high magic. If a witch is not disposed toward high magic and doesn’t want to engage in conjurations or walking the “other” world, then that is quite acceptable and completely within the domain of what I call witchcraft. Obviously, high magic is a special calling, requiring a certain proclivity for complexity and a more intensive regimen and discipline. Even so, a witch who is an exclusive practitioner of low magic should be able to perform various types of elemental magic (not to be confused with the four elemental creatures) as well as generating a planetary or Deity-blessed talisman. Modern witches should know how to perform these two operations and also how to create and employ sigils. These types of magic are fairly simple and fundamental to any magical practice, high or low. Yet I am amazed at how many adherents of witchcraft don’t know how to perform these tasks, or even worse, feel that such forms of magic are somehow harmful or bad.    

As I have said, if you call yourself a witch, then you should be able to formulate and practice magic as your form of “witchcraft.” Otherwise, you are just a harmless neopagan trying very hard (and failing) to be acceptable to your Christian neighbors. There are a lot of materials available for any witch who aspires to be proficient with witchcraft, and in fact you can find many of those techniques discussed on this blog at various times in the past.

My particular proclivity is to help witches master a form of high ritual magick that is based on the way that they learned to perform magic when going through their initial training. The system of ritual magick that I developed is particularly relevant to either witchcraft or magical forms of neopaganism. The two books that I have written on ritual magick represent a specific system that uses the witchcraft magic circle as its base, and therefore performs all of the operations using a technique of immersion. This means that the witch is not shielded from the various conjurations that he or she might perform because everything that is done is accomplished within the magic circle. What is outside of the circle is part of the mundane or profane world, and yet what is within the circle is part of the domain of spirits, ancestors and deities. All that protects a witch performing these kinds of workings is her own special and individual alignment to her personal Godhead, to which she has assumed and internalized as part of the basic regimen of magical preparation. She performs this work as a temporary representative of the Goddess, and so whatever spirits she evokes will comply with her desires and perceive her as a greater authority over them - and for that moment, so she is.

I have written a number of articles in the past that talk about this methodology, and I would like renew my readers acquaintance with them so that my perspective regarding high ritual magick is made abundantly clear. As witches we are the receivers of the legacy of sorcery and forms of conjuration and necromancy. We are the walkers between worlds, and so we should also be the mediators of Gods, spirits and ancestors. To start off this review of my past articles, let us first examine the difference between ceremonial magic (Golden Dawn) and witchcraft high magic, and you can find that article here. Then we should examine how I define immersion when I talk about witches performing high magic, and you can find that article here. Then I have a couple of articles that examine the basic theories of magic, particularly the energy theory of magic, which is most apt for witchcraft high magical workings, and you can find those two articles here and here. I would also like to share my thoughts about practical magic in an article here, and then examine the nature of pagan deity, here. These articles were written back in 2009 and many of my readers will probably have missed out on the useful material that they contain, since looking for them can be a frustrating hit or miss process.

This is a theme that I am pursuing in my present series of articles, so you should stay aware of my newest postings. I also regret that I haven’t been posting as frequently as I have done in the past, but I have been grappling with my regular job and trying (successfully, so far) to reinvent myself, and I have also been having issues with sleeping again. I will probably have to go to a sleep clinic in the near future to resolve this malady, since it has become obvious to me that getting a good night’s sleep is valuable for having the focus and energy to do lots of other things. Hopefully, I will be able to resolve this problem soon.

Enjoy the review articles and hopefully I will  have more interesting things to share with you in the future.

Frater Barrabbas

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