East Anglian Witches and Wizards is the fourth book published by Three Hands Press in the Witchcraft of the British Isles series by Michael Howard. In addition there are also books out on Welsh Witchcraft, West Country Witchcraft and Scottish Witchcraft. There is also an upcoming book on Irish Witchcraft that should be available in April 2020. I have yet to read any of these other titles, but after reading East Anglian Witches and Wizards they are all on my reading list. Unfortunately Michael Howard passed away in 2015, so some of the books in this series have been published posthumously.
First and foremost this is a great book to get if you are interested in getting a good overview of the history of witchcraft and folklore of East Anglia and the British Isles in general. It is well structured and covers topics such as: the witch trials, the witchfinder general, toad/horse/hare magic, familiars and of course the Black Shuck of East Anglia.
The book is mostly built up around the accounts of people who,at some point, were accused of witchcraft. I like the fact that there are many references throughout the book and that there is a good bibliography at the end for anyone who would be interested in digging deeper into the material. The author demonstrates great knowledge and sometimes he draws parallels to the witch trials in Europe to show the main differences between them and those that happened in East Anglia. Although the witch trials of East Anglia also meant the death of several victims, I was surprised to learn that it had been even more brutal on the continent.
This book is mainly about historical witchcraft and you will therefore not find anything about the history of Wicca in here. The history of Wicca has been thoroughly treated elsewhere. It does also not cover much about the rise of modern traditional witchcraft, but there are a few stories from “modern times” in here. The main part of the book is made up of stories from before the 1900’s.
I found the book to be quite an easy read considering all the information found in here. At times, I needed to take some breaks though, as there were a lot of people involved and a lot of stories.
As it is the history and folklore of East Anglia that is the focus of the book, it will not teach you any methods or give you any spells. There are a few stories of spells and rituals in here, but they are not really detailed enough for anyone who would wish to perform them. There are several grimoires available for anyone who would be interested in that style of witchcraft which is being described here. Perhaps I will review some of them later.
In my opinion it is essential for anyone interested in traditional witchcraft to familiarize themselves with the history and lore of witchcraft. East Anglian Witches and Wizards would make a great contribution to any list of recommended witchcraft books.. Of course the list would need to be supplemented with philosophy and gramaryes too.
I have no problems with highly recommending this book for a good overview of the history and folklore of East Anglia. It saves a lot of time that someone has put together all this information from various sources. I have not yet read the other books in the series, but when I have, I should have a very good overview of the history of British witchcraft in general.
The Night Spirit
First Edition Papeback publushed by Three Hands Press 2017
Just a bit over a week ago the Independent posted an article called “I spent a week becoming a witch and the results were worrying.” Obviously, and with good reason, it created quite a bit of a stir in the pagan communitiy. The article can be found here.
I do not wish to comment on that article directly as there are several other people who have done that already, but I do want to write a little about a subject that touch upon some of the points that some of the criticizers have pointed out.
As I have said in previous posts there is no kind of unison idea of what witchcraft is, which makes it quite complicated to dive into. I even think that some people who claim to be practicing witchcraft actually are doing something else. That alone makes it difficult to get a good overview within a short time period.
On top of that perhaps the most difficult thing about witchcraft or the reconstruction of ancient religious practices is understanding “myth”. To move away from our normally logical and organized modern worldview and into a mythical one is something that takes practice and a lot of effort. The reason for that is that becomes myths are anything but logical and organized. They can be quite irrational to our modern standards, there can be different version of myths and still they might be considered to be true even if they can be conflicting to one another.
To our modern minds things essentially need to be either right or wrong. If anything falls inbetween those two categories we find it disorganized and difficult to grasp. Often myths do exactly that. They claim to be true, but there is little or no evidence to prove their validity. A rational mind would then be inclined to disregard the story simply as false. Granted, according to scientific standards the tale of a myth does not hold up, but a myth is not something that only aims to describe events just as they happened. They are stories, but at the same time they are filled with information about our cultural heritage. In that sense they need to not to be true even if they claim to be. There may be elements in them that are true, but whether or not they were true may not have been that relevant to the ancients. It is us in the modern world who care about making that kind of distinction. In the mythical world they were still being treated as if they were true.
Perhaps the best example is the Trojan War. None knew exactly when this war had been fought, but it was commonly accepted in ancient times that this actually was a real event that happened even though none was sure of when exactly it took place. Today, none of us, would have accepted a tale about a war in the distant past without some kind of evidence of it. To the ancient Greeks though it was very real and the stories of heroic deeds from an ancient mythical era were used to educate and teach the desirable virtues.
My point here is that with myths the boundaries are often blurry. That is why they can be difficult to work with. I highly doubt that most modern day pagans would take the myths literally. I suppose even the same could be same of the Abrahamic myths. Although it is less common to talk about them as myths as in the western world those are the dominant religions. In fact, myth has been suggested to be “the religion of others”.
That kind of mindset which is required to understand and work with myths isn’t something that can be developed quickly. It requires practice, reading the myths and contemplating them. It requires the ability to shift the mind from being logical and rational to something that is more undefinable. Something that is not quite irrational either, but something that follows its own “inner kind of logic”. It is the understanding of the world inbetween the categories – the thinking outside of the box; beyond right or wrong and true or false.
The first post on this topic was written quite some time ago. I never forgot about it, but it has definitely been challenging to figure out. I would not say that I start from the beginning again, but to start right where I left off would not make sense either. In fact, here I was planning on writing a new topic until I realized that a lot of it ties in with what I wrote back then even if it may not be that obvious at first. The original post can be found here.
When I was younger there was a tradition to watch the BBC dramatized version of the Chronicles of Narnia in the period between Christmas and New Year (Of course I have also read the books). In particular I found the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to be extremely fascinating. The idea that you could walk into a wardrobe and enter a magical land, which by the way, only was accessible to children, was for me a truly inspiring thought. It did not matter to me that it was a land of ice and snow with an evil white witch causing it all. It was a land that was magical. That was enough for me. It did not seem to bother the children in the story too much either. After all they eventually became the heroes of the book. They got their adventure until they were too old to return. In one way it was the one thing in me as a child that was all I ever wanted, but never could have. In that sense Narnia became the Land of the Broken Dreams, because it was not real. It was just a fairy tale. I knew that of course, but I still wanted it to be.
As an adult, can I honestly say that it has changed all that much? I think that making up stories and things for us to believe in is something that we are doing constantly through our lives. There is no reason to think that an adult do not make up stories or create their own realities of how they want things to be. Just try being a tarot reader for a few days and you will soon realize that most of your clients only want you to reinforce their own fairy tales. Most of them have no real sense or even interest in developing themselves outside of their set of beliefs and ideas. They might not have a naive and childlike imagination anymore where the fantasies are quite distinct from the world we have to relate to, but they will still tell themselves things about themselves that probably are not true. It can be about finding true love, getting a little bit more cash or perhaps losing a little bit of weight. The fantasy is obviously not about that these things are not achievable. They might be. The fantasy many people keep telling themselves is if that they only get this one thing it would lead them to some kind of everlasting state of happiness.
Everyone who had just one piece of chocolate or one like on a post on social media knows that they could do with just one more until they become satisfied. It’s never ending.
It’s not about the dream in itself. It’s about the satisfaction. People tend to believe that their dream or vision of things are “supposed to be like” will bring about that satisfaction. Most probably it also can, but only for a while. The satisfaction is temporary and when it is over we return to the state of yearning once again.
As a child, I did not think of the consequences of entering Narnia. It was perfect, even though it clearly was not, but I failed to understand that. I did not possess the wisdom to understand that even in this fantasy land there would be hardships such as friendships forged and broken, love won and lost and so on. I thought that the power of a magical land filled with magical creatures would be enough for me to be satisfied and get a break from the dull and ordinary world.
There is only one thing to be done to break out of that endless circle of seeking satisfaction and that is to realize that there is only one thing that life will force you to do. That is to face the consequences of your actions, which really is the true meaning of karma. You are fated to face those consequences, but it does not tell you how or why. It really does not matter as the outcome anyway will be that there is one set of consequences that need to be faced. There is no judgement or human concept of justice in this. In the tarot trumps it is represented by the Wheel of Fortune and Justice. Crowley renamed the Justice card to Adjustment precisely because it is more about balancing the scales than any human concept of justice. Together these two cards reminds us of Fate and accepting it to bring us into a balanced state. Extra baggage or distractions would just tip the scale in one direction. Satisfaction would be extra baggage for you are not fated for it.
Mystically speaking this relates to the divine feminine. The Spinners of Fate and Justice have always been seen as feminine forces. Justice is connected to Venus through Libra and shows us a darker side of the divine feminine. At first we meet the Empress and experience Venus in its seemingly more positive aspect, I say seemingly though, because what is given birth and becomes manifested will later have to experience the fate and the judgement that awaits at the scales. There is no escape from it and it is why Venus also can be experienced as having a darker more sinister side, but that is only through the lense of what mortals think of as right and wrong. Nature can be experienced as brutal and this is not really any different than the nature of things.
That is also why the Hierophant is connected to Venus through Taurus, It is the card that reminds us of the mystical connection between all things and the divine. It can be a symbol of seeking spiritual guidance, but also that the divine mysteries have a role to play out on earth and that the hidden knowledge should be shared to the people. On its own it is not enough to gain any kind of enlightment, but it can be an important step towards it. It is a card that is often being interpreted as standing for the traditional and sometimes hierarchical structures. It is one of these cards that really seems to bring out the patriatrichal side of the tarot as within the Judeo-Christian tradition priesthood has mostly been male. I find though, that with the connection to Venus it is not a good interpretation for it. And I do not really see any reason for why the priesthood here could not have been substituted with female priestesses.
In any case, the seperation of these three cards to put them together based on planetary and zodiac associations is just an exercise. In practice everything is connected somehow and it is why I had to resort to be using the Wheel of Fortune to try and tie things together. In the universe the male and female forces, if you can call it that, work in unison with each other and therefore are dependant on each other as well. I still think though that these kind of exercises can be good for an increased understanding and may at some point increase the wisdom of the practitioner, but it took me a long time and quite a bit of work (book reading, contemplation, rituals, all kinds of stuff) to even begin understanding the divine feminine. I can also say that my perspective has changed quite a lot since that first post. Some would call that development.
I think I have learned my lesson through this experiment which is to accept fate and leave out that idea that there is something out there that will bring me some kind of lasting satisfaction except the truth. That satisfaction is at best temporary and a short term escape, exactly like that fantasy about heading into the magical dream land of Narnia.
In my last post I wrote about the current ongoing magical revival where I focused on some of the issues related to that. One thing that I did not mention is that alongside it there are also a myriad of different online courses being set up which will promise to teach you all kinds of things. There is nothing wrong about that as such, but there are more than a few people out there who seem to be more interested in earning a few quick bucks.
I think that some of them setting up those courses genuinely think that they have something interesting to offer, but sometimes they seem to be a bit too eager to be coaching others. So my advice whether it is a magical course or a tarot course is to try and get an overview of the course material before signing up. Sometimes it can be difficult as we usually enroll into courses if we do not have any prior experience with the subject, but it is at least worth it to make the effort. These courses can be quite expensive, usually a lot more expensive than books and it would be a big disappointment when you enroll only to find out that it is not in the slightest what you expected and you end up giving up on it.
I have myself taken a few online courses – none of which I ended up completing. And I also considered taking a few others too that I probably also would not have completed. At first they may have sounded appealing, but when I looked at the course material I realized that 1) This is not what I am interested in or 2) I already have a lot of the material found here available in books that I already bought.
If it is a good and well set up course then it will structure and help you out with the material and perhaps give you the right motivation so they are not all bad. Still it is worth being a bit extra cautious so you do not jump aboard one of the many bad and expensive ones.
In my personal and non-commercial opinion (spambots please stop asking to send me traffic, I am not interested. I do not sell anything) the need for courses are highly exaggerated. It is far better to get some good book recommendations and set up your own syllabus for what you are interested in. Don’t know where to start? Start somewhere. If it is something you end up liking a lot of books often have a reading list for further reading. That is a stamp of quality as it also means that the author has done some proper research.
In recent years more and more people are coming to an agreement that we currently are in the midst of a magical revival. Compared to 15-20 years ago the amount of texts that were available have skyrocketed. This is of course something positive and there is no doubt that scholars are doing a tremendous job in making old texts accessible to the public, but in its shadow and mainly in social media, something else that is less positive has also emerged in its wake: a kind of unhealthy and competitive spirituality.
I am not of the opinion that everyone needs to agree with each other, but the aggressive tone of the various discourses goes well beyond that. And it seems to be the norm everywhere whether it is regarding Solomonic Magic, Witchcraft and perhaps the occult in general. This is why I have chosen to call it “The Tragical Revival” as the premises for making something better is there, but the general outcome is rather tragic and depressing.
One example of a discussion which tends to get quite heated is the discussion of methods within Solomonic Magic and perhaps particularly the method of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC). On one side you have the grimoire purists and on the other side you have those with a more experimental view. I am not going to go into that discussion here. My point is rather that it quite clearly demonstrates a kind of competitve tone in the discussion between two sides who are not willing to settle on their differences.
Mysticism and Magic
Recently another discussion has popped up, which at least I have not picked up on before, that relates to mysticism and magic. In a recently published anthology called Circling the Compass by Anathema Publishing Dr. Stephen Skinner is quite explicit on that he does not see a place for mysticism within magic. That is of course a legitimate view, although I strongly disagree with it, and find it quite peculiar based on that the Magical Revival in the 20th century had a lot of mystical ideas in it. It remains unclear whether Dr. Skinner thinks that the leading occultists of the 20th century were practicing much magick at all. In any case, it is not a matter that is undisputed. Although I can agree that there seems to be limited interest within Solomonic Magic for mystical ideas.
However, this is not my main problem with his article in that book. My problem is with what he proceeds to say. He states that the techniques found in Solomonic Magic is similar to scientific methods where the experiments are repeatable and that he values this type of scientific enquiry also in magic. It all makes sense so far. But then he goes on to tell the reader about the supposed dangers of not having a proper circle. Okay, so he agrees on that the warnings in the grimoires about physical demon attacks are a bit too much, but he claims that he often hears accounts of people who shortcut the method and make careless mistakes. And then he, rather arrogantly, adds that they are mostly protected by their own incompetence.
I have two problems with that. The first being that “hearing accounts of…” is not very scholarly. I understand that this is not a scholarly work, but one cannot simply go from stating that scientific values are highly desireable in magic to come with such an unspecific example. Sure, I have heard “accounts” of people who have dabbled in the grimoires and horrific things happened to them. The problem is that none actually knows these people. It’s always that friend of a friend or someone distant. Taking away all those who have managed to scare themselves, there are not much to these accounts at all.
The second problem is quite revealing. It is obvious that Dr. Skinner cannot have an overview of what methods or what amount of knowledge these people supposedly have had. To me the whole thing sounds like an ad-hoc explanation, while at the same time trying to establish his own authority with cheap rhetorical tricks. I found it unecessary as Dr. Skinner is already highly regarded for his work. And I also find it disappointing that someone who has done so much for the occult scene feels the need to take part in that kind of competitive spirituality. It is definitely not a kind of behaviour that I associate with scholarly or scientific work. These types of formulations are things to be expected to be found in social media discussions (who unfortunately are way too toxic) and certainly not in a published anthology. The essay certainly left me with a feeling of left-hand work. Although this post is not meant to be a book review I can reveal as much as that there are several other interesting essays in there that may be worth getting it for. Dr. Skinner’s contribution however only left me with that I should be getting his other books and follow the formulas precisely, if not, I would be considered incompetent.
Let’s leave Dr. Skinner alone for now, but I am not quite done with the grimoire purists and their view of magick yet. Naturally, I cannot say that all the grimoire purists share the same idea as Dr. Skinner that magickal experiments should be repeatable similarly to how scientific experiments are, but my general understanding is that it is quite a common opinion to have among them.
That brings me to the Abramelin and the idea of the Holy Guardian Angel. It needs to be said that the Abramelin operation is not considered to be Solomonic Magic – yet for some reason it is still quite popular among the grimoire purists, First of all, the idea of a Holy Guardian Angel to begin with, is a mystical idea, secondly, everyone seems to have their own interpretation of what the Holy Guardian Angel is and thirdly because the Abramelin operation is extremely demanding in a modern society (it was already demanding enough back in the days), almost none can follow it by the book. Suddenly because of the great inconvenience of the method it seems to be okay to shortcut it. To me there seem to be just as much to that as that there is a gentleman’s agreement to that a bikini on the beach is okay while underwear is taboo. Personally I disregard the whole idea of a HGA as none can seem to agree on what it actually is anyway.
My point is not to take any experiences away from anyone, quite to the contrary, I just want to encourage people to not be so vocal about them and also refrain from commenting too much on what other people experience. There is a reason for why one of the powers of the sphinx is to be silent. I don’t think it is in the best interest for the continuation of magick within the frame of competitive spirituality. The original Magical Revival had a lot of mystical elements to it and that is why I find it tragic that they now are being left out.
Well, that is only partly true though. For starters I am not sure how one could claim that having contact with angelic beings and so on would not have some element of mysticism in it. The lore around which they build upon is quite mystical.
Then you have different brands of magic such as various traditions within traditional witchcraft. And surprise, some of them are highly mystical. Just look at the works of Andrew Chumbley, Robin Artisson, Nigel Aldcroft Jackson and several other writers and tell me that there isn’t any kind of mysticism in it.
The Witchcraft Issues
Witchcraft has also undergone a process of renewed interest, but the challenges it faces are quite different from what is currently happening within Solomonic magic. My main issue with witchcraft is that there seems to be so much nonsense going on. It’s so diverse that it is really difficult to get into and see what it really is about, but it seems like most of the Facebook groups out there are mostly busy with posting nonsense cat memes, getting advice for their own experiences in life (often completely unrelated to what I understand being relevant for witchcraft) and progressive political opinions (naturally these people are extremely offended if you would disagree with them). There is very little discussion of witchcraft practice in itself or in the very least the history of the various practices of witchcraft. Most people seem disinterested in that or they are just unaware. And don’t even get me started on the Wiccans who always seem to have the most fantastic and embellished accounts that I ever read across any occult tradition.
I find it tragic that with access to all this new information and possibility to connect and share experiences through social media, that it seems to be a step backwards rather than a real revival of anything. I am not so sure if it is the quest for truth that is the most important for everyone involved. If it was, then why spend so much time and energy on other people to try and influence their opinion? It seems like a self defeating thing to do and it does not have any place in anything that can call itself a true magical revival. And that is a great tragedy, as there is potential to be had out there. But in its current state it does not seem to be anywhere near fulfilled.
I am not here to decide what works or not for others. I am here to share my own experiences so that other people can decide if that works for them or not. That is also how I treat books by the authors I read and what I look for when connecting with other people. Right now I feel quite disillusioned about the whole thing. It seems to make more sense to just take a step back and only focus on my own stuff, because “everyone” you connect with on social media seem to be focused on anything but themselves. Except the likes they generate of course. Who knew that the meaning of life (and magic) after all is a number: the number of likes that you generate. At least we can agree on that isn’t very mystical…
Some time ago I got involved in a discussion about cultural appropriation. And I would like to share my thoughts around this concept in the context of witchcraft. There are quite a few people out there who apparently see witchcraft as a progressive political movement with strong roots within feminism. I am not saying that it cannot be that, but that is not the only thing that witchcraft is about. A lot of currents within witchcraft are counter-cultural and opposed to the ideas of mainstream society, but that does not mean that it has to be political.
When I pointed that out to someone who apparently saw it like that, they got offended and could not understand that someone else could be of a different view.
Personally I have huge problems with the concept of “cultural appropriation”. In my opinion it encourages racism in the sense you cannot borrow from other cultures and therefore they will remain “pure” or separate from one another. It’s a political ideology based on the idea that you need to be careful about not offending someone else. The problem is that cultural appropriation does not have any good definition and it is extremely problematic to know where the limits are. For that reason alone, I do not think it is very fruitful to use it. If a boundary is overstepped and something is “culturally appropriated” and it is clear that the intent was to offend, it can easily be defined as racism, sexism etc. instead. We do not need a concept that is masking up other concepts and making them more unclear. It is not doing anyone any service.
Historically, things get mixed when different cultures meet. Just look at the syncretizing of deities in the ancient world. I don’t think we can point to just one reason for it happening, but one of the reasons was people in conquered territories would be allowed to keep their own customs. Over time it would evolve and maybe be merged with a similar local deity. This happened for example with the Roman deity Mars who essentially is the Greek God Ares mixed with a local agricultural deity.
Also it doesn’t only need to happen through conquest. When traders met, it is not unlikely that they also would gain knowledge of how to gain safe passage through meetings with other cultures. Asking for safe passage has been one of the main things that people asked deities for.
I think the important thing to understand here is that when a custom was adopted, that it does not necessarily take exactly the same form as it originally was. That is not something that is done out of disrespect of the original source rather it is something that happens and evolves over time. Take the goddess Hekate for example: the mother, maiden, crone aspects are a modern invention. Some people decide to use it, others don’t (I’m not).
Another example is how Tarot and Runes have been appropriated by the New Age Movement. I personally cringe when I hear some of the modern ideas about tarot. But it has to be that way.
The point is that the meeting of cultures happens all the time. It did not stop in the ancient world. And today with the internet and information so easily accessible. It’s a natural organic process that things get mixed up. Sometimes it happens that it won’t resonate with us. It could for example be argued that seeing witchraft as a progressive political movement is an appropriation of what witchcraft used to be, but that’s fine, even if I don’t agree with that version of witchcraft. There is just no way that we are going to have a world with a political consensus where we can agree about everything. And that is why there is no use for concepts such as cultural appropriation.
In January 2018 I had a dream. I often dream when I sleep and usually there is some kind of strange story going on. And if there isn’t a story going on at least there is some kind of location or setting that would be possible to describe. In January 2018 though, when I had this experience, there was neither a story going on or any particular location that I would be able to recognize. Everything was pretty much black or grey. It could be that I am in a dark cave or something, but I cannot tell because I don’t really see anything.
All of a sudden I feel a force that seems overwhelmingly powerful and frightening. I understood instinctively that I was no longer alone in this dark space. I would never hold any conversation with any entity without trying to have it identify itself, so I asked it what it was and it replied “I am the Goddess Hekate”. At the time, I did not really know much about Hekate at all. I had never worked with her before and the only context I had heard her mentioned in was a negative context as something dark and terrifying and referred to as the Queen of the Witches. So perhaps not so surprising my response back was asking what she wanted from me. Her response took me quite a bit by surprise: “I want you to become my messenger”. Only a fool would accept such an outrageous request immediately so my response was somewhere along the lines of “Hell no!”.
Today, I am not actually sure how much choice I had in the matter. I don’t act on or put too much meaning into every single dream I have, but now I felt strongly to seek out information on Hekate. Perhaps this was the intention. It is likely she already knew that I would seek out more information. I ended up getting a few books and reading up on the historical Hekate. It was a lot more complex than I had expected with all the different epiphets, syncretisms and alternative names so getting a clear picture of exactly who she is, isn’t easy. I am not going into detail of that here, as I think that is a process that is useful for anyone with an interest in her to go through, but she is definitely not what I thought she was when I first met her in that dream.
I also had some books recommended to me by an “occult friend” who had been interested in Hekate some years ago and that’s when I got into reading books by modern day devotees of Hekate. I enjoyed these and I enjoyed reading about the historical Hekate so eventually I decided that I would be willing to be working with this entity. So I set up a devotional shrine where I can honor and petition the Goddess. After that I have just been continuing that practice as well as incorporating new elements into my practice, adding things step by step, as it feels appropriate when I read something new and discover new ideas. The studying doesn’t stop (it never will). And I frequently have new and interesting experiences.
One rather interesting episode happened after I got my statue of Hekate. I had decided to invest in a proper nice statue and much to my dismay it arrived broken. It was broken in two places. The headdress of the statue I managed to fix quite easily with some glue, but the torch she was holding in her left hand proved to be more difficult. I tried to glue it back on, but it just wouldn’t hold. When I took my fingers away after holding it in place for a longer period of time it would fall off again. So I went to the store to buy a second type of glue and repeat the process. It still wouldn’t hold. In a last desperate attempt I went back to the first type of glue and it still didn’t seem to work, but after I got tired from holding the torch in place at the correct angle, I decided to try and support it up with a small box of incense sticks that I placed between the torch and the body of the statue. It seemed stable enough, but suddenly the box of incense sticks fell rather violently to the ground. Anyone familiar with spirit communication knows that it doesn’t necessarily take the form of audible sound. In this case I suddenly felt a strong sensation of “I don’t need this”. The torch has been standing in place ever since.
The reason why I said that I am not sure how much choice I had in the matter is that now recently, I have been asked to hold a talk about witchcraft in a local shop. It wasn’t even my idea! I don’t know much about Wicca or other types of witchcraft so naturally a lot of my talk will center around Hekate and the type of work that is possible to do with her. What was absolutely unthinkable for me before is about to happen. I suppose I have gone from a “hell no!” to a “hell yeah!” Having that said, I consider this story that I just shared to be rather ordinary and normal. There are a lot of devotees out there with interesting stories (many way more interesting than my own).
Going forward I suppose I will share more of the work I am doing with her as it ties into some of the other topics I have already started writing about here.
I think it is hard for me to avoid the mystery of the runes in the part of the world where I reside. So I decided to research a bit on the runes and learn how to use them for divination. It’s a bit cooler to be reading runes when you meet up with the local vikings, right? And for me with my heritage, it is simply something I see as must be done. So, I have decided to use the Elder Futhark runes, which is quite standard if you use runes for divination.
There are some fundamental things that I find important when it comes to reading runes for divination that I think would be useful for beginners to know. The ancient art of rune reading is unfortunately not something that history has preserved for us in an unbroken line. What we have today is an attempt at reconstruction and anyone claiming anything else would not be speaking the truth.
Having that said, I don’t find that very problematic. If you look at modern tarot practice there are as many ways to read tarot as there are readers. There is no reason to believe that it would have been any different for rune readers back in the days. As tarot readers interpret the cards differently, rune readers probably also interpreted the runes differently. It is an art, and to be good at it, you have to make it your own (and practice a lot).
I don’t subscribe to any idea that there is a clear and definite meaning for the runes. When working with tarot we are working with archetypes and it is the same when working with the runes. The keywords for tmodern rune reading come from the rune poems: the Icelandic, the Norwegian and the Anglo-Saxon rune poems. And this is also where it is appropriate to point out that the rune poems aren’t actually based on the Elder Futhark. There are 24 runes in the Elder Futhark and the rune poems describe 16 runes in the Icelandic and Norwegian versions and 26 in the Anglo-Saxon version. The Anglo-Saxon version also shows influences from Christianity. So this means that the rune poems are based on the Younger Futhark and all that we have left for the Elder Futhark is an attempt at reconstruction. There may have been an older rune poem for Elder Futhark, but if so, it never survived.
There are various sites out there on the divinatory meaning of the runes, and I think it is important to realize that many have added their own personal interpretations. That is not to say that it is a bad thing, but it is important to know so that you don’t get stuck with what each rune means. It is the very same thing that make a lot of people struggle with tarot cards. Runes are arguably more difficult though, as there are no images to support your reading. My suggestion is to first start with memorizing the names of the runes and just a couple of keywords for each rune. Start with a notebook where you note down all the runes and the keywords and later on you can add your own if you find that it makes sense to you.
The reason I am writing this is that there has been a lot of false information over the years. Particularly during the 80s with New Age movement and pagan revival. Books and systems were being made without being completely honest about the motivation behind them and the origin of the material.
I think it is much better to be open about that it is a constructed system (tarot is also a constructed system), but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. In fact it means that magic is very much alive today. Perhaps it is meant to be something that is living and evolving and only then can you unlock the true potential and secrets of the runes. I will leave it at that and write another post about the nice set of runes that I got for myself. And perhaps later will I share some spreads that I find useful that I have created myself.
Once upon a time in my younger days I had to struggle myself through a book called “The Making of the Modern Mind” by John Herman Randall, JR. Or at least parts of it. I was nineteen years old at the time, and I was studying history of ideas. It’s an old book first published in 1926 and then edited and released again in 1940. It’s an excellent book, but perhaps not the easiest to read for a 19 year old with English as a second language. What I learned from reading it was how the worldview gradually changed to a mechanistic worldview where the world was treated like a dead object. It was during this period in the history of mankind that science as we know it today emerged. This led to a lot of technological breakthroughs and eventually the industrialization of the world. “God is dead” Nietzsche claimed. And many thought that eventually religion and spirituality would vanish. Today, we know that is not the case.
There is a thriving magic community alive today, and there are probably more books on the subject of spirtituality published now than ever before. In the magic scene old texts have been rediscovered and been put back together again by scholars then they are published so that they become available to anyone. People, read, discuss, argue and try to practice themselves.
When doing so, people are reading and reconnecting with a very different worldview than what is predominant today. They are discovering that there once was a very different world where it was not treated as a dead thing. In a historical perspective, modernity, which is roughly the past 500 years, is only a very brief moment in time. Science has given us many technological breakthroughs and greatly improved the standard of living for most people in the world, but the need for spirituality seems to be unchanged through all of it. Many people seem to think that spirituality and/or religion is contradictory to science, I personally, don’t think it is. Science is basically just a method of proving theories wrong (note that it is about falsifying and not confirming anything) based on experience. What science doesn’t offer is spirituality or a more complete understanding of the world. It is fragmented and often in disagreement with itself (which it has to be, or else science could not evolve further). There are some people who seem to think that science offers an explanation for everything and are even willing to use inadequate scientific models to construct their reality. I would refer to that as “Scientism”. Ironically though, that is exactly what science should avoid, so “Scientism” isn’t really a proper scientific view of the world.
What most people tend to get mixed up in the debate of religion/spirituality vs science are the criterias for what will be accepted as truth. A spiritual or religious understanding of the world is usually more fluid and less precise than what a scientific understanding of the world is. Therefore it doesn’t fit into the scientific model (and it never will). The problem though is that the scientific criterias are too strict. Religions and spiritual experiences are not something that can be shared and observed by multiple people at the same time and written down in a journal with precise language, which would be a requirement for it to ever be described properly in scientific terms. As I said, science is just a method and that method is not directly connected to our own human sensory experiences. We may have sensory experiences that would be very difficult to put down in scientific terms (or even in proper language). Dreams we have may be a good example where our senses can be distorted and when we wake up and remember the dream we rationalize it and try to make out what really happened in the dream, even though the experience itself felt hazy and distant. Only after we have processed it, it becomes a tangible memory.
So why am I bringing all of this up? Primarily, because it helps sort out my own thoughts on the subject and I find it very interesting. What I think will happen long term though is that the “collective consciousness” if we can call it that is going to change. It will no longer be purely scientific or religious/spiritual, but it will merge together and exist side by side (today it is more like you have to choose between one or the other). 500 years are nothing when you look at how long this world has existed. In a historical perspective paradigms are often thesis and antithesis to eachother and eventually they merge together in a synthesis (check out the Phenomology of Spirit). This is also what I think eventually will happen with science and religion/spirituality. And by that I don’t mean that they necessarily will merge into the same thing, but rather that there will be a way that they can co-exist and people have learned that they offer different criterias for truth and that it is actually possible to shift between them.
Having that said there is no denying that there are religious and spiritual groups out there who blatantly ignore science and what it stands for. This post is absolutely not for defending these people. I am of the opinion that any kind of spirituality that doesn’t take science into consideration, doesn’t have the right to exist.
I also realize that what I have written this far is merely the introduction to the topic. I think it is necessary though to explain the background before I start exploring what I think is a living and dynamic spiritual world. I will have to continue this later…