Today I wish to share a few thoughts around the concept of fate and how it relates to opportunities. At the moment I am in the middle of a much needed career change. It took quite a bit of courage to resign from my job and start on something new, but when I finally did it, it felt much like a relief.
Having that said I never thought it would be easy, and I can say that it has not been. I am sure I am not alone about this, which is why I am writing about it, from a spiritual perspective of course, as everything else is on this blog. My experience is that it can be rather scary. The argument here is that fate itself can seem rather scary.
I really do not know if I am being guided down a very specific path, which definitely is a possibility. When I started out I outlined a few opportunities to go ahead. One by one, I see these opportunities disappear. Largely due to events that are outside of my own control. The good thing is that these have been the options that have seemed realistic, but not really appealed to me. So even if I wanted to pursue one of these directions they have suddenly been removed as viable options. My point here is not to cry about what is not to be, but the fact that seeing these opportunities that once were part of your long term planning are doors that are being shut with a loud bang can be a frightening experience. It can easily leave you feel powerless. When this happens it is easy to focus on all the doors closing in front of you and it is impossible to know if that also will be the case with the only remaining open door. Luckily, it does not seem to be so. The most unlikely scenario, but the only one I really could ever hope for seems to not only be a way, but the only way that follows the plans I had made. This really makes me wonder if I once again am pushed in the direction and that my apparent choices have been illusory all along.
It is not the first time I feel this way. In many of the big events in my life it has felt like they have been staged. Opportunities have often presented themselves at a convenient time. Sometimes they have been too good to not act upon.
The upside is quite obvious. When this happens and the choice “is made”for you, it is now possible to focus all the energy in one direction. Again, this feels a little bit like I am being guided through by fate rather than really having any choice.
So rather than concluding, I will end my post with a question this time. Does fate work how I described it here?
I figured I would share this method that I created. I have no idea how other practioners would go about this, and there definitely is not only one way. I am sure I could come up with several different ways to create a tarot spread that is designed to get guidance from Hekate. This is just one very simple method that is based on something that most tarot readers already would be familiar with.
I prefer to do my tarot readings with a bit of atmosphere. I like to light a couple of candles and have some incense (usually frankincense or myrrh), but it is not a requirement. Before I light the candles and the incense I like to do a short invocation of Hekate. It can be personalized or it can something that has been written by someone else, as long as you like what it says, and it means something to you it should be able to be used. If ancient Greek is your thing, by all means, go for it! Some hymns can be found here
If you are in the habit of working in a circle or like to do a compass round, you can cast that before you start on the invocations. I do not think it is necessary, but some people find comfort in that. After all, in my opinion, when you invoke something you are inviting it to be within you inside the circle anyway, so I really do not think it makes much of a difference. I usually do it, simply because it is habit and to keep up with my practices so that I do not forget it when I need it for other purposes.
What kind of feelings and sensations you might have as a result of this, I cannot tell. That can be a very individual experience. As always when working with spirits treat them with respect. I am sure you would expect anyone that would ask for your help to treat you respectfully too. A part of that respect would be to know a bit about who you are attempting to contact and why, There is no reason to wing it, so make sure you have prepared yourself by studying a little bit before you start the whole process. That is of course only necessary if you never did any studying before, but I am assuming that most people who would be interested in this post already have some kind of idea about Hekate.
When you feel ready, state your intention and proceed to do the tarot reading.
The method I am about to describe is much more about symbolism than it is about the interpretation or the layouts of the cards. It is really quite simple and therefore something that is not too difficult to use. In this method I utilize the structure of a standard past, present, future reading. Nothing complicated and something probably all tarot readers would be familiar with.
The difference is how I go about choosing the cards for my spread. I shuffle my cards like I normally would. I do not use a significator for this type of spread, so all the cards are in the deck. I hold the deck in my non-dominant hand and do the shuffling with the other. Try and feel for any cue to stop shuffling, trust your intuition, and be confident that it is correct. Even if you are in doubt, it usually turns out to be correct, strangely enough. Put the deck down on the cavern floor as per usual (just kidding, I use a table).
Instead of taking the three cards on the top or cut and take the three on top or any method to get three random cards you will instead pick up the three cards at the bottom of the pile without cutting the deck. This is meant to symbolize that your illumination comes from the earth below and the cthonic goddess. Pick up the three cards with your non-dominant hand and lay them out from left to right as the regular past, present and future spread and interpret them as such. The card at the bottom of the pile will end up in the past position. Do not flip them over immediately when you hold them in your hand, because you will then easily reverse the past and the future card. Put them down first, then you can reveal them. In the last reading I had, it would have completely destroyed the meaning of the message if I did that.
When you are done with your interpretation you can proceed to any other task that you might want to do or you could end as you normally would do.
It is really quite a simple process, but I have had good success with this method when doing readings for myself. I can of course not guarantee anyone else to have success with it, but I wish you the best of luck if you wish to try it.
In modern day tarot reading it is quite common that the tarot readers assume that people have a free will to choose their own course of action. That was also my starting point when I started writing this blog. I do think however that it is worth to investigate the opportunity that it is not so. Perhaps this is only something we tell ourselves, because our ego is too big to admit that our readings are off?
The mythological understanding of a divination is very different. When an oracle has been given in a myth it is set in stone and no mortal or even the gods can escape their fate. One of the most famous examples of this is King Oedipus who is doomed to kill his own father and marry his own mother. When he hears of that prophecy he does everything in his power to prevent it from happening – and this is exactly how the chain of events go about to fulfill his fate. There is a point to that in that even though his fate is revealed, the path leading up to it is unknown.
The ancients knew these myths and they were an important part of their culture. The oracles were consulted when it came to making important decisions and they took the advice they got seriously. Solon, the great reformer of Athens, consulted the Oracle of Delphi before he went on with his reforms. I doubt many people today would consult any tarot cards before making any important decisions, and if they do, they would probably not think that they were stuck to the outcome of it.
Most people who teach tarot today teach that the future is not bound by prophecy and that we do have a divine will to make our own choices. I find it difficult to argue against that we have choices in life, but perhaps they may be less of a choice than what we would like to think sometimes. Everyone is bound by the resources they have at their disposal and the upbringing they have received. We do not act outside of our own sphere of knowledge and to quite a large extent humans are creatures of habit. A lot of the things that we perhaps would like to define as choices come down to our habits. I am not so much talking of choices such as whether you want to have eggs or yoghurt for breakfast. What I mean are the choices that matter to us on the grand scale -the ones that we would do a divination to receive guidance for.
A common danger with divinations, and I think danger is the appropriate word here, is that they may become self-fulfilling prophecies. Someone might believe in them to the extent that they block out all other possible paths and end up just as it was predicted. This is a common theme within sociology. As I said, it can be very difficult to break out of our pattern of habits. And if the foretold prophecy has been internalized to the extent that it has become a habit to think of it as it would happen, it can be difficult to avoid. That is not to say that divinations should be avoided, but anyone who is serious about them should approach them with the right mindset. A self-fulfilling prophecy would be an example of where divination might take away other courses of action and therefore take away the actual choices that we may have had.
In one sense that is exactly what happens with King Oedipus, although it was not clear to him that it was exactly this that led him to the series of actions that fulfilled the prophecy, but had he not taken that action to prevent the series of events unfolding it may not have happened. It is unclear whether it would have happened if no actions at all had been taken, but that is not how the story of the myth goes. The question still remains if he even had the opportunity to act differently. Probably not. And certainly not as soon as he heard the dire prophecy. He got stuck to the prophecy as soon as he heard it.
If our divinations end up as a warning sign of things to come ahead, I think most of us will heed that advice and try to change our course of action in some way. Other times it may be difficult to do exactly that as our habits will often try to prevent us from change. So either we are heading straight for the direction of the warning sign or we are heading towards an alternative where we might have little overview of what the consequences might look like at the end of the road. In either case I am not sure if it necessarily is the product of our choices. Most people simply do not relate to their lives as a series of choices where everything is planned down to every single detail (this is where most conspiracy theorists fail). What follows then is that we are bound by social structures and habits that will make many of the choices for us. It also has to be that way as it would not be possible for us to plan out or know every single consequence of all our actions. The aggregate of all these actions may also be (for us) unpredictable. Human beings are often not as rational as we would like to think about ourselves.
Did I really choose to write this blog post? If I had not written it now and played a game or something instead chances are that I somewhere down the line would have written it anyway. Why? Because I have this blog and sometimes I feel the need to write stuff. I cannot help that. It is a part of my character and a habit I have. The fact that it has been in my draft for almost a month also means that it is not something I just spontaneously thought about. Now, I realize, how bombastic and silly it sounds like if I was interpreted as I was “destined to write this blog post”, but that is only because our cultural upbringing has made us used to hearing those words in the context of something that is great. If anything that destiny would also have to be something trivial.
Perhaps I will return to this topic again later, but for now I wish to conclude with that modern day tarot readers do not go sufficiently in-depth when they speak of the choices that we have. The idea that we have a free will may be a product of our cultural upbringing and may be something that we are taught more than we actually have come to and thought of that conclusion ourselves. A lot of the choices we have may be illusory. There are even cards within the tarot deck which may suggest that.
At last, I just want to say that this is not to be understood as that all readings therefore are accurate. They may very well not be. They too are bound by our interpretations and the threads of fate. I do, however, never think that the cards that appear are incorrect. I only think that the interpretation of them may be, and that is largely limited by the context and knowledge we have, which most often is very incomplete.
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
People who argue about the polytheistic gods, who they were, if they have evolved or whether they are just archetypes do not really understand the mythological worldview. The ancient world was not clearcut. Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a romanticized fantasy world. There certainly was no concept of cultural appropriation or idea that the gods belonged to specific cultures. The idea that a god belongs to a specific culture is ridiculous to begin with. In the polytheistic tradition the natural thing would be to look for similarities between the gods and if they found some that were fairly similar then perhaps they would be merged. For example when Gaius Julius Caesar wrote down his accounts from the battles against the Celts he compared the Roman gods to theirs. He could easily have said that they worshipped false gods and that the Romans did not. That is not to be understood as that he accepted the Celts – they were still seen as a barbaric people by the Romans. The same thing happened when they encountered the Greeks.
Deities would have their local variations and perhaps their own rites related to a particular region even within their own culture group. I read in a book review that it was a ridiculous idea to celebrate the Celtic holiday Imbolc when worshipping Hekate (not saying you should, I do not), because she was a Greek goddess. Well, she was not Greek, and her origins were likely Near Eastern, but the Greek adopted her into their pantheon. When you look at the historical sources of Hekate (and particularly her) then the idea of any kind of “pure” goddess goes right out of the window. The sources do not agree with each other and over time she would evolve into a more sinister looking character. The fact is that none of that is present in either Hesiod’s Theogony or the Homeric Hymn to Demeter from the archaic period.
That means that worship has not been static and not only has her character evolved between cultures, but also within the same culture. There is no reason to think that this not also apply to other deities. And why wouldn’t it? Look at modern practice of witchcraft for instance and you probably find as many types of different practices as there are covens. Even in mainstream religion such as Christianity there are many different approaches to their religion.
I therefore find that idea that there is a thing such as a pure idea of a god or goddess that belongs to a specific culture to be quite ignorant. Why could the gods not have revealed themselves to different cultures with different names? Why are there so many similarities between different mythologies in different cultures? Then again, if you are looking for any kind of logical consistency within the realm of mythology you are on the wrong track, because you will not be able to find it – even within the same culture.
In Håvamål from the Norse culture there is also evidence for that culture sharing is a good idea: “Only he who has travelled far and wide and over mountains knows.” In other words you do not learn anything if you just sit at home. If you travel, you are bound to meet new people and cultures to learn from.
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.