Article

Magick in the Mundane: Hail & Welcome

by Erica Sittler

My newest grandchild arrived today. Just a few days early, but a smooth and safe passage for both him and his mama.

Until the nurses noticed he wasn’t quite breathing right. No lusty cries. Not quite getting the hang of transitioning from an aquatic creature to one who inhales air to survive.

I was on a series of planes making my way from Florida to Colorado, catching connections and doing my best to travel over two thousand miles in as short a timespan as possible. It was between flights that I learned simultaneously that he had been born and there was a problem that required him to not be held in his parents arms or at his mother’s breast. I reached out to my priestess as a numbing feeling of bereftness crept over me like a damp chill. Surely this day of joy was not going to turn into a day of abandoned sorrow? I was about to go on a flight and potentially lose contact with everyone for over three hours. So, I reached out to my spiritual advisor and my classmates and another member of my larger circle and acknowledged the need for help outside my own strength.

Earthside. Suddenly, I understood in this flux of natal breathing that the soul of my grandchild was making a choice. A choice of whether to be fully born and join us as incarnate creatures here on Earth or whether to withdraw. And there at the cusp between worlds was that soul’s absolute right to choose. And after that choice was made, the veil would close, the memories fade, and if he chose to stay here, it would be a long, long time before such a choice was offered to him again.

In the din of a plane boarding: the chaos of takeoff and the unknown, I held space for that little one to honor his right to choose. Those who I had reached out to were sending gifts to him as well. Gifts in the form of love, light, energy, and healing. They too acknowledged space for him to literally breathe… or not. I could not do more than put myself in a sphere with him and in silence respect the wavering I could sense coming from him and assure him that I honored whatever choice he decided was his path.

How many times do we offer that grace to others? To ourselves? To push out all the noise and simply honor one’s right to make a decision and not condemn one choice and celebrate another. To truly free someone from expectations? To uphold sovereignty as sacred?

The religious worldview I grew up in was very violent on nearly all levels. A kind of “shake the heavens” to get your way, because our way is always best, right? To force one’s will on others or situations. To blast. Sunder. Yes, I understand lightning strikes, volcanoes erupt, and tsunamis engulf. How often though is the default to approach most matters with a hammer and tongs versus the willingness to sit in a sphere that truly honors sovereignty? And I know, this conversation can go sideways really quickly. Please understand that is not my point. I am not stating that evil goes unchecked. That using our magick to influence outcomes is wrong and shouldn’t be done. Or that sometimes, perhaps, a person really should spend some time in a freezer spell jar.

We live in a modern world that is too trigger-happy. Too eager to throw blame, bullets, and force as a way to dominate and control. All lasting change starts within. I didn’t want my newborn grandson to die, yet.

Yet. Yet somehow, unseen, I was able to connect with this soul and understand that for whatever reason there was a hesitation. A pause. And instead of trying to force him to stay, I wanted to rather give him space. To allow death if that was the choice. Death and Life were both there in that space as well. There was a holy quiet in that place and I understood more fully the words we say in ritual. Both the “Hail and Welcome” as well as the phrase, “Stay if you will, go if you must: Hail and Farewell.”

My grandson decided to stay. He is not even a day old and has already shared deep wisdom. May we too remember to bid each other, “Hail.”

Hold space.
Bear witness.
Acknowledge.

Erica Sittler is a Witch practicing her craft in Mississippi where she is a local, active member of the Temple of Witchcraft. Her magick is in the mundane and in bringing honor and attention to those small things that build a sustainable and adventurous life. She is a Temple Mystery School student under the instruction of High Priestess Sellena Dear.

Probation of the Seeker

Photo by Valentin Petkov via Unsplash

Photo by Valentin Petkov via Unsplash

by Christopher Penczak, Edited by Tina Whittle

A classic inner world function of the occult tradition is the period of probation. This process of scrutiny and examination happens again and again in deeper octaves, but the first time is often the most misunderstood. I know I misinterpreted it when I experienced it, and it was only with the perspective of years later that I could appreciate it.

Helena P. Blavatsky, a founder of the Theosophical Society (T.S.) wrote this about it: “There is a strange law in Occultism which has been ascertained and proven by thousands of years of experience; nor has it failed to demonstrate itself, almost in every case, during the fifteen years that the T. S. has been in existence. As soon as anyone pledges himself as a “Probationer,” certain occult effects ensue. Of these the first is the throwing outward of everything latent in the nature of the man: his faults, habits, qualities, or subdued desires, whether good, bad, or indifferent.”

When one decides to seriously study with a teacher, something rises up to challenge and that something is usually within us, but the teachers, fellow students, and cauldron of community become a type of mirror to examine it.

In later training, it manifests as ordeals and initiations of both formal ritual and education and the trials of life. The first time often lacks that context but is just as important. Today it might be equated with shadow work or fencing the dweller on the threshold as it was described in Blavatsky’s time, but I truly think in today’s work, those happen both later and repeatedly in the process. They deal more with the Underworld initiation or dark night of the soul. The probation is earlier and deceptively simple.

When you decide for whatever reason to say, “I am ready for serious study. I am ready for serious growth. I want to know. I want to serve.” or any variation of these statements, the powers of the cosmos and the powers within yourself rise up and say, “Are you sure? Is this really want you want? Are you prepared for what that could mean?”

The challenge manifests in many ways. You could have car problems that make attending the events difficult. Changes happen in your work schedule conflicting with your studies. Supportive family is suddenly no longer supportive. You experience friction with your fellow students or the teachers. They might say something that challenges you, makes you uncomfortable, or hurts your feelings, even though that was not their intent. You question if you should really be doing this? Is this all a sign not to do it? If you were “meant” to do it, wouldn’t it be easy? Shouldn’t it always be fun? Not necessarily.

The first challenge is to successfully discern if this a true message from wisdom to guide you away from something that isn’t right for you, or a manifestation of your own subconscious trying to sabotage you because it fears change. The third option is what sometimes get referred to as the Lords of Karma or Masters of Opposition, strengthening you with the tests, to make sure you are ready. Even if you can’t discern which is occurring for you, the act of will, deciding you want it despite the difficulties, is a supreme act of magick and a necessary ingredient for a successful magician, as this is not the last time you’ll be challenged.

A circle of initiates is both a place to gather and a boundary, and to pass the boundary, you have to show that you are ready. This is easier said, and believed, than done.

Even if our initial training doesn’t come with a formal examination or interview of motives before one begins, a period of examination begins. What we tell a prospective teacher might be what we sincerely believe, but we can be deluded. A teacher might recognize that immediately, but still see potential or you might fool the teacher who seeks to see the best potential in others or give the benefit of the doubt.

The period of probation is best described as a trial in all senses of that word. Occult learning can feel like a trial before a judge, sometimes having to explain your actions and motives in the quest of self discovery. Those who don’t know how to examine themselves easily and deeply are prodded to do so. How you respond to critique early on and with little things is a measure of how you will respond to the bigger awareness that is necessary to take personal responsibility of your spiritual evolution. Those who have difficulty will say they feel judged when they are really being evaluated. There is a difference between discernment and being judgmental.

The trial can be seen as a test, something to pass or fail, yet the truth of occult teaching is not so black and white. The majority who do “fail” this stage decide not to pursue it, that it’s not for them. Those who study informally first, with a friend, will remark how easy and fun that is compared to more formal training of a contacted tradition, and yet the depths of the teachings match the level of commitment. My first mentor was, and still is, a lot of fun. So I was shocked that the start of my serious occult education was not, and the mark of every great teacher I’ve had after that, from herbalism to Hinduism, challenged me in some way, pressing my buttons intentionally or more likely unintentionally. Often it happens as a natural process. As Raven Grimassi would say to me, “the ways have ways.”

A trial is also a trial period, a time to test things out like a rehearsal. Magickal and mediative practices are just that, a practice. As an art they take a lot of practice, and we live in a day and age where new students expect to get things right the first try. It’s a trial period for the group and for the applicant. What is often called the “outer court” proceedings are a time for both sides to mutually agree to go forward. The student always has the agency to stop at any time, but sometimes they believe that their acceptance by the group should be automatic and unconditional, simply because they want to learn. However, the group or teachers might not feel you are a match. The agreement to proceed must be mutual.

When entering into the trial of the probationary period, whether for the first time ever or simply with a new teacher, school, or group, keep these points in mind as you’ll be going through another round of examination no matter how skillful you think you are already.

Manifest Unconscious Patterns: The process will bring up unconscious patterns of behavior that can be detrimental in the path, so better to examine them now before going too far. If you don’t want to face them, now is the time to figure that out. You might have a different opportunity later on, often with a different group.

Resistance is Futile: The more you resist bringing things into consciousness—the more you react, deny, blame, or project—the harder it becomes. Embrace the process. When hit with something uncomfortable, reflect. Journal. Really examine reactions and deep motives. Ask yourself why. Reflect on past patterns when the same issues might have come up. Look at what is unhealed, and while the probation period might not resolve it, knowing where your buttons are before entering deeper training is huge to succeed and heal.

Do You Really Want to Do This? Do you really? Really? Why? If you don’t know, figure it out before you commit. You don’t have to do it. Most people don’t. This will be the first of many challenges, and while the rewards are great, you don’t have to do this, but once you really open the door, it’s incredibly hard to go back to your “old” life. There has to be a sincere desire. If you don’t want to be somewhere, you don’t have to be. I almost joined a cult in my youth. Were they? I still think so, but I might be wrong. In the end I didn’t want to be there, so I left.

It’s Me! While other people are catalysts, the probationary challenges are ultimately from ourselves. What am I seeing of myself in these challenges? People are certainly imperfect and troublesome, but if you think the problem is always with another person and their actions and you are blameless, you will have great difficulty embodying the “as within, so without” correspondence principle necessary for an occultist to evolve.

It’s Intense: While most people have their challenges distributed through the course of their life and still be quite unconscious about them as they move through them, this can be the first time of many when you are going to gather up and concentrate your shadows, karma, and faults to examine them consciously. It sets a pattern of discovery for what is to come throughout your life, intensely. A magician or Witch’s life is not necessarily meek, quiet, and easygoing. Magickal people are most often intense people. The study of Magick will be life changing. If it isn’t, something went wrong.

Beware the Ego: this period is also the time when it is most easy to walk away thinking you are superior, more knowledgeable, more compassionate, or more real than the group/school/teacher. Resistance to the probation period often manifests as ego, pride (because our pride can be wounded in the process) or a recapitulation of childhood patterns. I wonder if when I left the “cult,” was I in place of ego? They certainly thought so, and I can see why looking back on it. But in the course of my spiritual training, that was one school I left out of perhaps six serious teachers and periods of training in my life so far. If I left all before serious study, that would be on me. So perhaps it was a cult or perhaps it was just a bad match, but I know I can face a probationary period, which was spiritually different in each of those six times. The first is always the hardest. My first encounters with Laurie Cabot were humbling, but before the humility, there were some challenges, angers, and tears. And the beautiful part is she has little memory of that because it was simply her offering the teachings and not personal to her. Ultimately it was life changing to me.

With an understanding of the mechanics and these six basic points to guide you, you will be able to face magickal education is a clearer way and pass through the gate of probation.

For those studying in the Temple of Witchcraft, the probation period can be the time before formal study in the Mystery through training in the first and second degrees. They are the preliminary training, foundational basics where you learn to report your experiences and trust is developed. Particularly in distance learning, there is a challenge of rapport.

Once I had an online student say, “I feel you don’t believe me. You think I’m bullshitting you.” She was surprised to find out that I did, but it wasn’t personal to her. I’m looking for the signs of the authentic experience which can be wildly different in different people, but much like pornography, the definition is hard to pin down, but I know it when I see it. I think many students are bullshitting themselves so when they do it to me, it’s with whole-hearted sincerity. That’s why when they are called on it, they are shocked and offended, even with minor things. Those who take classes mainly for validation—which there still can be a lot of—can be upset and have to either adapt their paradigm, struggle, or leave.

Failure to go through this step can leave one unbalanced in the higher teachings. Occultism is not safe, in the sense that the forces we work with have the potential to alter worldviews, energies, and essences. Without context and stability, the changes can be ungrounded, destabilizing the student. We all go through periods of destabilization that lead to change, but we need the map, the formula, the pattern that brings it all back together.

With the foundational training, we can move through this early stage and be prepared for the deeper initiatory work—the shadow work or dweller on the threshold and the peaks of connection and union. If we have established an exchange that won’t be only validation, one with authentic evaluation and then true insight, healing and change can occur. We will have entered a new circle of education and partake in those mysteries.

by Claire du Nord

Blessed Be, and Beltane Blessings! Welcome back to the seventeenth article in our “For Broom Closet Witches” series. Claire du Nord here, a High Priestess in the Temple of Witchcraft tradition.

I had high hopes that I could keep my Yule Tannenbaum until Beltane so that it could be the Maypole for my Beltane celebration, but alas – it had to be disposed of. It had started to grow some mysterious, but nevertheless cool-looking (in my opinion, anyway) lichen-like mossy stuff on it. And because the annual apartment inspection, which usually happens sometime in May, was conducted a month early this year, I had to say “Goodbye” to the Tannenbaum, as I was sure when I got the 48-hour notice to enter the apartment, that the apartment manager would not appreciate the Tannenbaum the way I did. So, instead, my staff became the “Maypole” of sorts, and even without any Beltane drinking, dancing and “frolicking”, one thing sort of led to another as I wrote this article…

Once upon a time, there was a 3-bedroom brick home on a 3.5-acre plot of land which became a little Hobby Farm. There were chickens, guinea hens, turkeys, rabbits, goats and sheep! It was all part of a Homeschooling adventure, meant to provide my son with a rich life experience in self-sufficiency and living close to Nature. We hatched out chicks in an incubator, as well as let the hens go “broody”. We always provided fresh hay and special types of feed for everyone who lived there. In the picture below are “Baby” (in the foreground) and “Valentine” (in the background). They were extremely mischievous and loved to break through the fence just to get to the acorns under the oak tree on the other side.

We loved them, nonetheless. And they did provide us with some nice wool. At the beginning of each summer, they would get shorn (get a haircut). I would send the fleece to be washed and “combed” at a wool processing company, and they would send it back to me in the form of “roving”. I then spun the wool into yarn, using what is called a “Drop Spindle”, (or a mini-Maypole???), as well as a Spinning Wheel. Here is a bag of roving, with the drop spindle, ready to begin to spin:

And here is the drop spindle, after a bit of spinning. It is used to spin and store the yarn until enough has been spun to form a “Skein”.

And here are two “skeins” of yarn, after spinning, which can then be wound into balls, if preferred. The next stage in the process is to use the yarn to knit wool clothing. (This is a little bit of a simplification of the process, as one might also like to have an “Umbrella Swift”, a “Niddy-Noddy”, a “Nostepinne” and a “Ball Winder”, all of which can be used to help in the “Sheep to Yarn” process.)

Here is my Spinning Wheel, a stool to sit on while spinning, and a big bag of roving to the right:

For my Beltane table, I chose a white tablecloth with a rose pattern to match the roses in the vase. I also added two burgundy-colored candles and a jar with some dried rose petals inside. I decided to make it a “Tea Party”, with my rose tea pot, rose cup and rose tea bag holder. I served a goat cheese log sprinkled with dried mint flakes and olive oil drizzled on top with crackers. There was also a green pepper and radish platter.

And here is my Beltane table:

I hope this article has been helpful, and until next time –

Merry Meet, Merry Part, and Merry Meet again!

Beltane Blessings,
Claire du Nord

Magick in the Mundane: The Wounded Candle

by Erica Sittler

Our little group of nine has finished Witchcraft I here in Mississippi. Initiation was both beautiful and meaningful. Now, we are launched into the world to practice what we’ve been taught and continue the disciplines we established together in class over the past thirteen months.

For me, it’s been months of both physical and emotional pain. A long season of things breaking open and shattering in ways I could not have foreseen. There is a weighted feeling of being bereft and alone. My heart is pierced through. Suddenly, my daily practice feels overwhelming. Like, “something’s got to give, so it has to be my spiritual practice for a moment. For a few days.” Life sometimes is simply not fun. At times, life feels so magnified in the yuckiness of it. Perhaps magnified when you descend from something as profound as initiation.

Slowly as the days passed, it was not just my spiritual discipline, but also my regular housekeeping skills seemed to have taken a long overdue vacation. Clutter everywhere. A pile of mending that has sat forlornly on a chair since Yuletide. Dust everywhere. Sticky floors and, well, most of you have been in a similar place before. I needed a bath.

“But I’m supposed to be happy! After all, look what happened: I passed W1. Spring is finally here.”  On and on I could go, but the truth is, I wasn’t happy, haven’t been for a while and the joy of initiation overshadowed the months-long malaise of deep sadness and grief that has seemingly crept into everything. My youngest child keeps asking, “Mom, are you ok? You look sad again.”  At one point, I snapped at him and said, “Yes. I am sad. It is not your job to fix me. Go away please.” Not my finest mothering moment, but there it is.

There I sat, numbly, in the dark and sifted thoughts like beads. Not meditation. Rather a form of soothing I adopted long ago to give myself the needed space to process the overwhelm that I can’t easily shake off. A solution gradually presented itself: just light a candle. Nothing more required. No words need to be said. Just light the little candle on an altar.

So I went to my main altar and lit a candle. And left. No special words. No incense. Just a little tea light. The next day the same. And the next and the next. By Sunday, while the rest of the family was out, I lit all the little candles at all their respective places. Next day, just the one on the main altar. And freshened the little water jug at another.

And so it went. Stumbling. Imperfect. But there. Reminding me, without judging me, that I am not alone. That I am a part of a wider community, both corporeal and spirit. The following Sunday, the candles were all lit, along with the little offerings brought. During the week, just the main altar candle and the little water jug. A little prayer of thanks came. All of six words. Last night a spontaneous song and a bath.

Today, I moved my bay tree with the help of my youngest son. He fetched the shovel. I instructed him on how we don’t just attack the tree, we speak to it and ask its permission to move it to a safer place. We dig slowly. I bless the bay and then stir my shovel in my large outdoor cauldron and words come out as I stir. I move dirt and more words come and we plant the bay in its new home. Blessed cauldron water. Roots moved into position. The bay tree is heavy and its root ball large and saturated with days of rainfall. My son helps yet is silent as we clean up. More words come out as I stir and clean the shovel. My son thanks me for letting him help.

I light more candles and do the littlest of blessings over each. The candles and offerings are all lined up on a favorite tray that once belonged to my grandmother. The candles twinkle in their little holders. The little assorted goblets all share the same drink: a stinging nettle gin cocktail. There are pieces of donuts and homemade bread. I nibble a little bite, sharing the meal and talk to the ones they are intended for. Then set them out in their various places around the house. They twinkle back at me. Reassuring me, that despite this long wave of grief, it will not last forever. I am far from healed and my spiritual practice is humble and quite unimpressive. But with each candle lit, I am telling all those layers of “me” that I want to heal. I want to know joy again. I want to sing and sleep with ease.

If you find yourself here in this desolate place, I sit here with you. Even if it is years and decades from now, a part of me remains here with you and acknowledges this immense grief and open wound you feel here in the darkness. Until you are ready to do it for yourself, I shall light a candle for you. Every day. Just one candle. Right here on my altar. May its glow comfort you.

Blessed be.
—/—

Erica Sittler is a Witch practicing her craft in Mississippi where she is a local, active member of the Temple of Witchcraft. Her magick is in the mundane and in bringing honor and attention to those small things that build a sustainable and adventurous life. She is a Temple Mystery School student under the instruction of High Priestess Sellena Dear.

What Do You Expect?

by Christopher Penczak, Edited by Tina Whittle

Someone recently asked me, “When a student is done taking all the levels of the Temple of Witchcraft training, what do you expect? What does their daily practice or commitment have to be?”

I answered, “Whatever they want it to be.”

This may seem surprising, but we have no expectations other than if you commit to something specific, you follow up on those commitments. If you take on a specific project or job, follow through. If you take on a ministerial role, even when not actively performing a service, you abide by honorable action and ethical codes with the greater community.

Other than that, we have no expectations. A Witch is free to come and go as they please. And they do. Some people I never see again. They are members of the order. They are initiates. They owe no sense of personal or communal loyalty beyond doing their own True Will as they see fit, and I know I won’t always understand their path. This is normal.

If you take a class, I have the expectation that you will do the assignments of the class. Many classes are open ended with no homework due. They have no expectation. For those that are clearly described as having homework and requirements, I expect one to go through a process. I don’t expect the process to be easy for anyone, myself included. I don’t expect perfection in the process. Struggle, critique, and repetition are a part of learning any art. If your expectation is only continuous praise or validation, expect to be disappointed. As Raven Grimassi taught, “It is a poor teaching that leaves you unchanged.” The point of magickal training is to challenge you, be it philosophically or personally. The friction, the grit, is what often polishes the diamond. It’s not personal, but process, and as Raven also said, “The Ways have ways.” Trust in the Ways. Trust the process and observe what happens. Once you reach a plateau in the process, I have no expectations regarding what you do with the material, or if you go forward or not.

I realize an academic model and its expectations are not the ideal situation of learning for many Witches. Witchcraft isn’t only in book and classroom learning, as it’s a lifestyle, a way of orientation. I’ve been blessed by many formal and informal mentors and tutors woven between my more formal magickal education, but I couldn’t expect someone I don’t know to take me on personally for mentorship without some introduction or connection. You might be surprised at how many people will demand personal mentorship with no prior relationship, feeling they are beyond any class experience. Mentorships often lack the boundaries of the teaching circle and provide their own challenges to both student and mentor. My own experiences as student and tutor have often become messy. My own work has shown me far more people seek an education than I could personally mentor, so the academic model allows me to provide education and more opportunity for the possibility of personal mentorship without being overwhelmed. Even still, a school cannot accommodate all people, all learning styles, and all needs. We each do the best that we can in opening the way to the Mysteries.

Your practice is whatever you want it to be. There are guidelines, tips, and suggestions from the teachings, but the greater challenge after formal education is the freedom to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. Admittedly, this short-circuits some graduates accustomed to having structure provided for them. Now you must craft your own structure, or not, and your own practice.

Magick should become a fundamental part of your way of life, but what that looks like will be different for each of us. Some try to do all the rituals and meditations in a really structured way. That can become unfeasible, and then we have to reinvent the practice. Others just “need a rest,” and while they fully intend to return to a practice, they never do, as the responsibilities of life carry them away from a magickal perspective.

Many feel their magick is so integrated into their life that they now need no formal practice or rituals. It’s just automatic. Maybe, but I’ve found many people try to convince themselves of this without it being a reality. Sometimes this self-assessment is based in ego. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something like, “I don’t need to do spells/rituals/meditations anymore. I am living it.” But it’s said with almost a disdain to those who are doing spells, rituals, and meditations, as if the practice makes you less advanced, not more. Most high-level practitioners I know, though approaching some level of attainment of whatever the hell enlightenment might be, seem to keep some form of practice, even if it’s radically different from their early training.

We shouldn’t be doing these things because we “have” to do them to become “spiritual” but because we enjoy them, because they are an expression of our Craft, a way to give voice and action to the magick deep within us. Witchcraft is not a religion of guilt. Don’t do something if you don’t want to do it. But if you find yourself not doing Witchcraft ever because you don’t want to, yet doing other things regularly, ask yourself why you are a Witch. I knew a “coven” that rarely did magick or ritual together, but frequently drank together and watched football together. Only later did they question the purpose of their gatherings.

For myself, I think of the invisible cloister. As a magickal priest, I don’t live in a formal cloister, yet I have much of the same sense of purpose as those who are in a monastic establishment. A cloister is both a monastic institution and a covered passageway. The covered passageway is open, but also gives shelter, and the blessing of any type of monastic organization is the support, space, and structure designed to aid practitioners in their serious pursuit of spiritual progress.

I have my vows and have made a serious commitment to my spiritual pursuits in the context of community. It is my way of life, but the very theological nature of Witchcraft means I haven’t renounced the world. The difference between having a cloister mindset versus having a cloister is that there is very little institutional support for the magickal priesthood. Even when we gather together, we are still primarily solitary. We might have the support of a coven, order, or school, but not like a monastic institution. Perhaps we will in the future, and perhaps we won’t. Who knows? But for today, I am a Witch, a magickal priest, serving myself, my gods and spirits, and my community. My practice is living “as if” I am paradoxically both in the world and in the monastic order, keeping regular practice and partaking in the traditions that “hold up the day” not just for myself, but for a greater good. My practice can seem pretty robust to those not of this mindset, but it is simply my life.

As I travel and teach, I find there are many Witches who do the same, but perhaps would describe it differently, and there are many who do not. There is room for all of these practices. That is why I have no expectation that a graduate of my training will take this upon themselves as I have. No one asked me to do this. It’s simply the worldview and actions that spoke strongly to my soul.

While I don’t expect it, I encourage people who are called to keep strict traditions, at least until you don’t. Do so until that no longer works for you, and then try something different. I do, however, keep the mindset of conscious awareness that should come with a monastic life. Living in a spiritual order, even when you are not cloistered from the world, means that consciousness should permeate everything you do. Eat, drink, and sleep consciously. Do your household work and your day job consciously. Look at the divine in the interactions with people. That doesn’t mean you can’t do whatever you want, but you do whatever you want with awareness of the experience, and you take responsibility for the consequences. While I advocate eating consciously, I often have junk food as comfort. I enjoy a good drink. I’ll stay up late at night reading, watching movies, or otherwise goofing off because I don’t want to go to bed. I choose to do those things rather than do them unconsciously. Like some of the unorthodox practices of many rebellious religious sects, such the Hindu Aghori, there is value in confronting seemingly “bad” practices by indulging in them, and thereby freeing yourself from the hold of the harmful emotions rooted in the practices. There is nothing wrong with eating what you want, but when your unconscious motivation is directing you, that becomes the greater problem. Exposure, examination, and direct experience can bring it into consciousness and rob it of its harmful power.

While I don’t expect it, I encourage people who are explorers to explore, research, and synthesize new traditions. Push the frontiers of consciousness, and when you find something that works, bring it back and share your ideas with the rest of us. Don’t get too attached to the idea of people doing exactly what you do, but be open to simply inspiring them to do what they do. That has often been my experience when I craft a seemingly new teaching or technique. When pushing further doesn’t work, go back to the tried-and-true methods as foundation for a time and see what happens.

While I don’t expect, I encourage people to make their Craft a part of their life. I guess I was lucky, first learning many years ago from my mentor Lynne, and then studying with Laurie Cabot, and then with my mother and spiritual sister, all of it together cementing the Witch’s worldview as a way of life, a lens through which to see and do. My partner and fellow Temple of Witchcraft co-founder Adam Sartwell often encourages us, “Are you thinking like a Witch?” I’m often surprised at how many people can take classes for a long time in magick, but not integrate a magickal perspective, a Pagan or Animist sensibility, or a Witch’s worldview into their day-to-day life. For a while I did expect, and when I didn’t see it, got disappointed, so I’ve learned not to expect it, or anything, as we each learn, integrate, accept, and reject wisdom teaching in our own way, for our own good.

In the end, be it practice, spiritual responsibility, community roles, or anything else, I don’t expect anything beyond what you tell me I should expect from you. I encourage what I think could be helpful and enjoy watching the path unfold in all its many ways.

 

by Claire du Nord

Baskets filled with colored eggs nestled in colored grass. Cute, little fluffy chicks and bunnies. All sorts of candies and other treats. Sound familiar? It’s Ostara time, and all the stores are filled with pastel-colored items that Witches, both in and out of the Broom Closet, can include in their celebration of it! Claire du Nord here, a High Priestess in the Temple of Witchcraft tradition, with the sixteenth article in our “For Broom Closet Witches” series.

Of course, you don’t have to buy things to celebrate Ostara. There are lots of possibilities for crafty “Do It Yourself” ways to make merry at Ostara time. In my opinion, neither option is better than the other, and mixing the two is perfectly fine. After all, it is your celebration!

While contemplating the season of Ostara, with its spring flowers, new life, new beginnings, etc. – the hallmarks of this Wheel of the Year Sabbat – a memory flooded my thoughts . . .

When my son was about 2 ½ to 3 years old, we were in a major department store, walking side-by-side, with me gently holding onto his little hand. His father was a little way up ahead, pushing the stroller. Suddenly, my son pulled his hand out from mine, and in a rush of panic, my immediate thought was that he was about to bolt, even though he had never done anything like that before. In that split second, as I prepared myself to chase after him, all my preconceived notions about what was happening came to a screeching halt as, to my surprise, my son reached his little hand up to a display of artificial flowers that we had approached only seconds earlier.

As I stood there watching him, my mind switching gears, he grasped a bouquet within his reach – red tulips. Then he extended them to me with the most precious look of love in his eyes and said in his little voice, “For Mama.” I almost broke down in tears right there in the middle of the store! However, as I didn’t want to startle, worry or confuse him, I controlled my emotions and thanked him profusely with hugs and adulations. I carried them until it was time to check out, and I discretely paid for them, still marveling at the profound happiness that I hadn’t anticipated experiencing that day. This is one of my most precious memories.

And here are the tulips, gracing my Ostara table – as beautiful as they were on that day, over thirty years ago…

For my Ostara table, I chose a rose-colored shawl as a tablecloth. I added white candles and an Eostre basket with colored eggs and baby chicks. I also blended up some Pimiento-Colby Jack cheese spread to go with my home-made Almond-Sunflower Seed crackers.

I also prepared some “Deviled Eggs”, although, being a Witch, I hesitated to include them, because of their name. But I told myself, “Before you pass judgement, do your research and see what the name is all about. Then you can decide whether to include them or not.” So, what I found out was that the term “deviled” goes back to ancient Rome and the word “diavolo”, which means “devil” in Italian. Eggs were typically served with spicy sauces, as a first course to elaborate meals (hot and spicy flavors being symbolically “devil-like”).

In the 18th century in other parts of the world, the term “deviled” was once again given to dishes to mean a highly seasoned or spicy food. Since “Deviled Eggs” are usually prepared with mustard and paprika, I can see how the term might fit, following the trail of meaning. Even so, I decided to include them in my Ostara celebrations after all, with plenty of mustard in the yolk mixture and a good dusting of paprika on top – not for any potential connections to “The Devil”, but rather for the nutritional components they naturally contain, namely the Phytochemicals in the Mustard the Capsaicin in the Paprika.

In the cuisines of other countries, there are many variations on the ingredients used to “stuff” the eggs, so they don’t necessarily have to be “hot and spicy”. And with the same inclination to avoid any reference to “The Devil”, there are many people who refer to them as “Stuffed Eggs” rather than “Deviled Eggs”, side-stepping altogether the historically unsavory connotations associated with the name.

I hope this article has been helpful, and until next time – Merry Meet, Merry Part, and Merry Meet again!

Ostara Blessings,
Claire du Nord

Magick in Mundane: On Being Too Much

by Erica Sittler

Perhaps, all of us magickal folk fall into the mundane realm of “too much”.
Too much curiosity.
Too many questions.
Too many crystals/rocks, plants, hats.
This past Saturday in under 24 hours, I was either told, shown, or written to that I was essentially “too much” and to get back down in my place.

First response to first incident:
– shake it off
Seriously, what does that person know and why should I let their comment bother me. It did bother me, but I was trying to pull a Swift and shake, shake, shake.

Second incident response:
– left the room in shame, became violently ill.
It was a personal, imperious public snubbing by someone I considered a friend and I was mortified. I didn’t understand it. Couldn’t process any rationale behind it except the desire of the other to stamp me out of their circle. It was crushing, humiliating, brain numbing. It turned into a panic attack (in private) which for me involves a lot of uncontrollable shaking, followed by a what would look like the stomach virus from hades itself.

Third incident response:
– It’s not hives, but have you ever wanted to scratch your skin off your body? Specifically scratch your chest open to free your poor heart that is now in full blown flight mode? Yeah, that was me. My poor chest looks  like I ran straight through a briar patch.

Pain, pain, pain.

All this yucky “get back where you belong, which is not here.” As in a national civic group, me personally as a human, and where I actually live.

One day, I will have the strength of will and depth of knowledge in my craft to be able to more effectively deal with these as they come up. To snuff them out. This was not that day.

It was only later in the quiet darkness a full 24 hours later that I am able to assess more clearly a few tidbits to help put what had happened into clear focus and action steps I can do so it won’t happen again.

1. Where were my shields? Obviously, they were not deliberately set and engaged. Not recharged before entering a room. Not set over my mailbox. Not cast over my home before I left it for that day’s adventures. Not doing that shows a lack or weakening in daily discipline on my part. Can a shield last for more than 24 hours? Certainly? Yet how many days can it hold without being fortified? I suspect not as long as I’d like to fancifully imagine. At least for me, putting up that shield needs to be more than a morning holy stretch.

2. What is the state of my devotions? My Lorica Prayer? My daily and weekly offerings? Have I given in to an excess of shortcuts? Of “I’ll catch up tomorrow” ideals that never come true? Do I believe the spirit realm grows lax in its care for us if we grow lax in our care, or heed, of them? Yes, actually, I do. It’s not spite or retribution or punishment. It simply is the natural order of most things…even stalactites require a steady drop of moisture to grow.  Why am I not putting the sincerity of my devotion within my craft first and foremost daily? Time.

3. Visiting my inner temple. When was the last time I did that, really? For it is here my heart is safest. Here where I can listen and acquire wisdom. Here I can rest, recharge and be healed. Here I can sort and process the realities of my life. Again, I’ve not made this intentional time a priority in my current life, because I haven’t “needed” it. And, you know, I have been really busy.

Yet, when the pile hit the proverbial fan this weekend, I came crashing down like a sandcastle against the incoming surf. Ridiculous, sad, and completely avoidable.

Because l, let’s face it: I am too much and the time has come to stand firmly in that muchness. For you also. To radiate and glow and rejoice in the fullness of it all. And that is a very good thing. The world craves and needs that muchness even while some despise it. Deep down, you know and I know that the people who despise us are not worth losing skin or sleep or breakfast over…much less sneaking out of a room in shame. But to be able to withstand being despised or humiliated for being “too much”, we must be fortified with our shields, our devotions, and our time spent in our inner temple. Only then, can our faces light like flint and our eyes glow with an inner fire that burns and deflects such nonsense away. Our thoughts and hearts have much better things to focus on. Too Much.

Erica Sittler is a Witch practicing her craft in Mississippi where she is a local, active member of the Temple of Witchcraft. Her magick is in the mundane and in bringing honor and attention to those small things that build a sustainable and adventurous life. She is a Temple Mystery School student under the instruction of High Priestess Sellena Dear.

Forgiveness, Forgetfulness, and the Ties that Bind

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu via Pexels

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu via Pexels

by Christopher Penczak, Edited by Tina Whittle

Not that long ago, I was quoted, correctly, saying that I’m Italian and I hold a grudge. And that is not untrue. Or perhaps it’s the combination of my Italian heritage and the natural inclinations of a Sun sign Taurus. Yet I had a few students who were shocked, because I’m one of the few Witchcraft teachers they know who also talks about forgiveness a lot, even asking our first-year students to work with a forgiveness mantra for self and others. How do I hold these two seemingly contradictory things at one time? These are the mysteries, and such paradox is inherent in all mystery teachings.

Some students get quite upset, thinking I am trying to sneak Christianity into their Witchcraft. Their Witchcraft is one of power, justice, and even vengeance. When I began my training, purposeful curses (other than those for defending yourself) were not often talked about. It was probably happening quite a bit, but it wasn’t discussed openly. In the current times where the talk is more overt, the practice has certainly multiplied, but is often exercised quite unskillfully. A number of students started studying with me because they cast curses, often a little too successfully or with the curse backfiring, and they needed help. A few thought (erroneously) that cursing was just a self-help pseudo-therapy type of thing seen mostly on social media, something to release anger and make you feel better, nothing that would have an effect they regretted.

While I’m certainly not Christian, as an occultist, I cannot ignore the strands of Christian mysticism in the Western Mystery Tradition of the last two thousand years. If you practice forms of Hermeticism, Qabalah, and alchemy, if you have any influence from tarot, the grimoire traditions, or the Golden Dawn branches, you have been touched by it. The Christianity of the early Celtic Church doesn’t leave me shuddering in the same way that parts of Roman and Orthodox Christianity do, though the high rituals of those branches certainly have their own magick to them. The principle of the redeemer, the concepts of the Age of Pisces, and the non-Christian forms of salvation that are found in the Greek term Soter/Soteira are things I readily embrace as part of the occult tradition. Today many Witches are seeking Christian folk magick to supplement or even replace their Neopagan occultism, but ignore the theological principles in the tradition. Embracing, rejecting, or actively ignoring Christianity plays a role in our Witchcraft.

When I ask someone to explore forgiveness, I often get the response that they can’t. A very good friend and now graduated student tells me that I just don’t understand the abuse she suffered, and she cannot forgive her abusers, and I do understand that, at least intellectually. The discussion went into the concept of the forgiveness of a debt, and how that metaphor plays into our modern concepts and understanding of karma, not necessarily with “good” and “bad” karma, but credit, something owed to you, and debt, something you owe. The ideal of liberation is to be free of credit and debt, and simply enact your true will in all things, incurring neither.

If one who does harm is not contrite and has not made efforts to resolve or restore the harm, you do not absolve them. But if you focus on their harm to the extent that it harms you, you must take steps to resolve it for yourself. Like not wanting to have someone on your accounting books, absolving the debt, expecting nothing, allows you to let them go and not carry with you the hurt and the expectation that what is owed will be restored. You will balance your own books, let go of that expectation and debt, and be free. Yet you wouldn’t engage them again, or in this metaphor, lend them money again. That would be foolish. Forgive the debt, but don’t forget the circumstance.

When I say I hold a grudge, I remember those who have done wrong, and who have not sought to rectify or offer apology only to continually repeat the same bad behavior, and I won’t do anything to further support them in their harm. If my actions could contribute to preventing further harm, then I would. While it’s not exactly malice, there is a satisfaction in seeing those who do harm not be happy or successful until they change their patterns of harm. I wish all my enemies great happiness when doing good, or at least being neutral, but if their happiness is rooted in causing harm to others, I certainly don’t wish them happiness and success. I wish them no success until they change. I do truly wish they would figure it out and cease harming. And I am open to the idea that they might serve a purpose I cannot see, understand or personally accept. I am open in my grudge to observe change and respond to it. I might even take the risk that change has occurred…once! But if my hope is betrayed again, until I see the change with others and verify that it’s true and lasting, I won’t engage. There is a chance for true forgiveness and resolution for all, but it takes willing partners on all sides.

A Witch can forgive. I encourage it when possible and right for you. But I don’t believe a Witch can forget. Even when it’s resolved on both sides, that which is remembered has led to that resolution, and it gives hopes for others doing harm that change, restitution, and forgiveness is possible. If we believe in an interdependent and interconnected world, we must be willing to hold the possibility of redemption and reunion for all our parts, those within us and those within the world.

Magick in Mundane: A Twist of Thread

by Erica Sittler

We’ve come to the end of our course here in W1. If I was a good student, I would be studying for our test. You know, the one you have to pass in order to initiate? Pass with a 100%. It’s an open book test, so everyone should pass, right? Yet, I am the student who could easily not do that. I hope there are bonus questions. Or maybe we get extra credit for good behavior….

…instead of studying, I’ve been working with my red cord. Just a simply woven cord, made with intention by my teacher, so cherished by me and my fellow classmates. It will be our little “badge of honor” so to speak and recognizes the time, effort and devotion put toward our magickal practice. So, I’m very fond of this cord even though I haven’t quite earned it yet. W1 is all about the Inner Fire. Hence the color red. Earlier this week, as I was holding my cord, I realized what I needed to do, and I set to work with needle and thread and some little stones then I wove them into the threads of the cord itself. When starting, there was a thought of roughly how I was going to go about it. But that is not at all how it turned out.

Now, you see, handwork, or fine detailed sewing skills is not one of my strengths. Neither is math. Seriously. Do not ask me to do something complicated that involves math. You will really wish you hadn’t. But that was hardly a deterrent to my vision for this cord. So, I gathered and folded and counted and sorted and got busy with my needle and thread. Hours and hours and hours later, my cord looked nothing like I thought it would. It had sprouted a life of its own.

Where I thought a pattern of six was to go, the cord required nine sets, symbolically for the nine of us classmates who made it through the year. Where I thought a line of five was meant to go, a snake appeared, complete with tiny rattles and a pointy head. Where I envisioned a soft gleam of moonstone, a skull face with fiery red hair came forth. Days went by and I gave up on what I thought was happening and just let the cord instruct my fingers which by now had been pierced more times than I could count. Lava rock beads showed up and oils, but only certain oils. Other oils refused to open their caps and add a drop to the collective infusion of lava. After three attempts with three different bottles, it fully dawned on me that I could play along if I wished, but what my cord actually wanted was for me to simply be the conduit for it to become its full self.

Amulets and talismans appeared. Symbols of liminal spaces and reminders of allegiances and allies fused themselves to the cord, stitch after stitch. As it finished itself, I realized I had my math wrong and what I thought was the back was  now somewhere else completely. It did not matter. Obviously, it was exactly where it was supposed to be. I kept quiet while sewing, working hard to not overthink the process, but just let it happen and enjoy it. Coral hag stones gathered with my grown son on a liminal stretch of shoreline one sunset joined the collective. Tiny strings of tiny beads and seeds like feathers added adornment. And then quite firmly the intuition to “set the needle down”. Ummm, we are just going to stop? There are more beads and this stone only has this small bit added? Should there be more? Can I add this tiny bell? I’m mentally bargaining with the cord, knowing full well by now that if it doesn’t want it, there will be no keeping it there, no matter how many knots I tie. I add it. It stays.

Lo and behold, a magickal cord. Where did that come from? How did that happen? Why did that happen? What does it mean? What can it do?

Fairytales are full of ordinary things that hold extraordinary power and can do amazing things at certain times and in certain places with certain people. A doll, a key, a carpet, a bean… the simplest of things, transformed into more. How? Sometimes, it’s just fate or luck. Other times, it’s through little rituals, like feeding the dolly or bathing in the river seven times. What makes my little twist of thread so special? Absolutely nothing. It is made of commonplace materials and you can find much prettier ones…

But…

But, I have a very visceral, tactile relationship with this particular twist of thread and its bits and snips. Utterly unique and not replicable, for did you walk the rough shoreline at sunset with me and my son that day, so that every time you see and feel them you call to memory a day you walked a liminal space where earth water and sky conjoined with such crashing beauty it took your breath away and you wanted to melt into the  coral rocks and be a part of that beauty for eternity. And that tiny yellow shell with its pinprick of a hole? That? Why that was your gift from the merfolk. You had wandered another stretch of ocean. Ocean where salt hung heavy in the stiff breeze. A long, rough wooden pier where men were fishing for sharks and you, completely out of place, were making peace and an offer of friendship to creatures unseen, but felt and acknowledged. That tiny shell has as much value to me as any pirate’s golden trove. And those magnolia seeds. Why who knew when pierced they released a perfume as sweet as the flowers they originated from? And those stones? And that particular arrangement? Do you see me as a young child visiting an esoteric shop much to my father’s chagrin. Do you see me tenderly picking out a tiger’s eye stone like it was the most beloved of friends long out of site? Or there, again as a poor, scraggly, abused kid looking through the Sears catalog and finding rings made of my birthstone, garnets, and thinking they must be the most precious of all stones, to have earned the position of January’s stone. On and on and on in the working.

Herein is the magick. With every stitch there is a memory, an association, a smell, a symbol, a meaning: a something to make it matter. Dearly matter, if to no one else but myself. I have woven and rubbed and snipped and gathered all the best I learned in this W1 course. Certainly we learned fancier words to describe such things in class. Words like correspondences and sympathetic workings. Words I now can say with certainty I know what those words mean, for I have gathered and worked and bled here upon this long and beautiful scrap and now pulsating cord for days. Why? Because my life is far richer when it matters. When the things I surround myself with matter. When the nature of my work matters. That, Beloved, is at the heart of all good magick: it all matters.

Erica Sittler is a Witch practicing her craft in Mississippi where she is a local, active member of the Temple of Witchcraft. Her magick is in the mundane and in bringing honor and attention to those small things that build a sustainable and adventurous life. She is a Temple Mystery School student under the instruction of High Priestess Sellena Dear.

Mystery Plays, Schools and Magickal Classes

Photo by Johannes Plenio via Pexels.com

Photo by Johannes Plenio via Pexels.com

by Christopher Penczak, Edited by Tina Whittle

I am enamored by the mysteries! On all levels, they embody the essence of the magickal journey because all things have their mystery, from the most philosophical to the seemingly mundane, for one mystery teaching is that nothing is mundane. But you have to have the experience of that mystery to truly understand it.

Preserve the mysteries. Reveal them often. These have been mantras for me. Not that I wish to profane the holy before those who would disrespect it, but the preservation and revelation come with my full realization that those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear will do so, and for those who don’t, the mysteries will remain occulted. But sometimes the very exposure to them through art, word, and music will trigger something deep and catalyze a change, making someone into a seeker and potential initiate.

Because I’m so enamored by the mysteries, I think a lot about how the mysteries have been transmitted in the past, in the present, and how it will happen in the future. I talk to many others involved in this work and do a fair amount of practical application of the ideas, adjusting and adapting as time goes on to see how best to serve the mysteries.

One of the things I have found helpful in the context of a teacher in the Temple of Witchcraft is to define the purpose of a Mystery School over other forms of magickal experience and education. Sometimes people join with expectations, and when the reality is different, they have some problems, no matter how much we might try to prepare people for the reality.

Ancient Mysteries

In the ancient world—and I think carried on in some forms of seasonal community today—we find the concept of the mysteries as a profound celebration. A powerful example influencing modern Witchcraft is the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece, devoted to Persephone and Demeter. Initiates were sworn to secrecy, and that secrecy has held, so we have only outer understandings and our best guesses to the meaning of the experiences. It’s not the only form, as we have it in Mithras, Orpheus, and Dionysus, as well as various mystery cults to goddesses and gods of Rome, Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, and likely versions across the world.

In such mystery traditions, there was usually a focus on a deity and their story as the central expression to the mystery. There would be lesser and greater mysteries, overt and deeper meanings and experiences, if not a grade system. Experiences would include travel through holy pilgrimage, cleanings, special diets often leading to fasting, challenges and ordeals to test determination and will, sacramental drinks and food, and some form of ritualistic art experience to transmit the gnosis of the mystery. The mystery play is believed to be a way to transmit the mysteries to the entire group, showing the mystery rather than relying on the poetry or actions alone. Words and symbols were conveyed while the audience members were in a trance state, allowing them reach the deep levels of being. Such a medium helps when the community is not necessarily receiving special philosophical training or might not possess even basic literacy (in the Eleusinian Mysteries, for example, one need only speak Greek and not be a murderer to enter). Otherwise, all genders, social statuses, and races were welcome. During the ritual, one experienced a revelation on the nature of reality, often the immortality of consciousness, and the process served in creating a map to the afterlife for the initiate, sharing specialized knowledge. This transformed death from a fearful to often joyous experience, creating a permanent change in perspective. Initiates of the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries, for example, were said to never fear death again.

Such mystery traditions could gather at regular intervals, again like those of Eleusus, or be attached to a more regularly meeting society with additional roles and responsibilities for initiates, like modern masonic orders and akin to modern covens in Witchcraft, or be attached to a philosophical school, with the preparatory lectures, learning, and exercises like an actual school, creating a fundamental change in life and lifestyle. Those who simply attend seasonal festivals and what traditional covens often call the Outer Court trainings are participating in the pre-mysteries, or even in some cases, the lesser mysteries of the yearly cycles.

A Mystery School

As a founder of a modern mystery school, I try to provide the information, experience, support, and context that both continues what I received and takes it to the next level in the development of community. While I technically learned through continued academic-esque classes alongside formal and informal coven experiences, I didn’t attend a fully realized school. My ethos is to create, write, or do the thing you wished you’d had so it will be formed for the next generation, and they can do the next step rather than reinvent from scratch as we often are forced to do. One of my key understandings in diving deeper into magick is that magickal study can magnify anything. You become more of whatever you are. If you are physically balanced and healthy, you truly become amazing. If you are spiritually unbalanced, or even harmful, it often magnifies that imbalance, so like ancient mysteries, we go through a cleansing, an inventory of self, and then a greater foundation to make ourselves aware and conscious of what we are magnifying and what we are healing. Otherwise, we can easily enter into magickal delusion.

Since magick, energy, and consciousness are not really talked about or broadly taught in our society, starting in a school, getting through the basics, and building a foundation can feel remedial at times. Older systems had an approach of breaking you down and building you back up again, which has its own problems. Modern ones often don’t, but having to start at the beginning can create resentment in more advanced students with previous study or self-study. Soon the wise see that not everyone has the same idea of what is foundational, and many “advanced” students have holes in their education. A good school closes the gaps and gives the necessary information and experiences so that students may more safely enter into mystery and magick. This can also be a self-correcting mechanism, as when the experiences and forces stop someone from getting to dangerous things because the necessary prerequisites can’t be met.

Some of the basics a mystery school will teach, show, and open experience to include:

Awareness of Other Reality—A living awareness and experience of a non-ordinary reality is key, and from that first point, much of the work is learning to deepen and make readily available this level of reality to the student.

Philosophical Foundation—We can’t live in this other reality 24/7, so we need context to be able to understand it intellectually and the skills to move back and forth through various levels of the “ordinary” and “non-ordinary” without going crazy, until such distinction no longer matters. Entering into the mysteries can break the rational mind without context, and many self explorers go crazy for a time, and can even shut down because of lack of context. That context can include the history of those in your lineage, those similar to you, and those different, furthering the understanding that it’s something as natural to us as any other aspect of life.

Energetic Well Being—Magickal training ideally includes levels of evaluation of personal energy, a cleansing of energy from thoughts and feelings that are unresolved as well as toxic influences from the environment, family, and past lives, freeing that psychic voltage for personal well-being and evolution. We begin to notice the unhealthy flows and patterns of energy that lead to harmful decisions and actions. Unhealthy patterns need to be dismantled and new healthy patterns established. We learn to seal the leaks to our energy and attention and build a stronger vessel, and learn to store life force for future magickal actions. Sometimes our energetic circuitry needs repair and eventual upgrade, and to do that, we have to learn how to consciously work with the flow of our energy, and how to tap into other sources of energy.

Change of Consciousness—Change of consciousness is ultimately about making a permanent change in perspective, integrating that otherworldly reality and being able to function within it, but also changing the baseline level of awareness into something more clear and distinct. It starts with learning things such as basic focus and concentration, developing a meditative mind. Disciplines are balanced with intuition, control, and flow until we understand the state of effortless effort and surrender to divine providence. That paradox is a deep part of all mystery training. Fused with changes from energetic well-being, we can see this as a form of soul crafting. New skills provide a foundation for leaps of consciousness into more expansive realms of awareness.

New Skills—Training will often be in occult forms of meditation, ritual, and psychic abilities, learning to apply the abilities to shift consciousness and manage vital energy. Through these skill sets, one can gain access to new nonlinear information, inspiration, spiritual entities, and dimensions of reality not normally accessed. Often it starts with items aligned with the lower rungs of a hierarchy of needs—the magick for everyday concerns and wants, simple healing. Some learn tricks and find power in impressing others, but all the smaller things lead to the greater magicks of evolution and insight, rather than parlor tricks. The skills work in tandem with everything else, providing framework to apply what is learned in practical, and mystical, ways. The secret societies and trades that influence and inspire Witches today were originally about passing skills—healers, blacksmiths, millers, horsemen, and masons.

Community—There is a bond that forms when people go through the same patterns of change. While everyone responds to it differently, successfully navigating it and graduating provides a link. We see it in all branches of the military, as well as college fraternities and sororities and secret societies. In a mystery school there can then be the sense of duty to the community, or a sense of service to pass on the things that helped you come to realization, understanding it takes those who have gone through it to pass it on to others to keep the learning and growing as a cycle that does not end after one generation.

We could add a lot more steps and details, but these are some of the basic points showing how a mystical school can approach things, as opposed to other settings of learning magick or experiencing the mysteries.

Classes, Workshops, and Intensives

In a general magick class, the intentions are much less intense, though there can be a lot of points that overlap, depending on the class. Today, magickal classes and workshops can include simply sharing techniques in a formal way or an informal way. Often we hold space and share an experience and our own stories and ideas. Teachers can have a formal class plan and syllabus of topics to cover, or be more freeform in the group. Some classes have a practicum experience part, and others just have conversation. Some magick teachers I know highly object to leading others through an experience or ritual publicly, because there is not the same bond, and safety, as with someone who has made a formal commitment to study with that teacher. Not having that taboo when I started, I never thought about it until much further along on the path, and the cat was out of the bag at that point, and I found ways to do deep workings with new people safely and effectively. It was all about process and setting space and intention. Having many years of experience with my share of mistakes doesn’t hurt now either. Those who attend classes often have a sense of bonding and community, but it’s more temporary than initiatory mystery experience. Weekend intensives can have an initiatory quality, but if they are not held by a tradition, school, or established custom, they can fizzle. I can’t tell you how many weekend intensives and festivals I’ve attended, and led, where the participants bonded deeply, feeling they had found family and “tribe” and then slowly drifted, as the one weekend wasn’t quite the bond they thought it was, even though it was stronger than most things previous to their experience. It can slowly fade or end in drama, which in its own way, too, can be initiatory.

People can enter a formal mystery tradition from those experiences and feel that the held traditions and customs are too stifling, preferring the freedom and flexibility of a weekend, often not realizing the drawback to that. Neither is better or worse, depending on what you want, but you can’t expect the commitment of a formal community without making that same level of commitment yourself. Many people, assuming the evening and weekend magickal class is all that modern magick has to offer these days, leave Paganism and Witchcraft and seek a deeper mystery and community in Buddhism, Hinduism, and African Traditional Religions. Though held unbroken much longer, they offer a different perspective of the mysteries. I look to the regeneration of the Pagan, Goddess, and Witchcraft mysteries where I am, with the growing communities I experience.

In the end, it’s always good to ask yourself, and others, what you are getting into and why, and reflect upon the answers. If you seek the mysteries with a true heart, even outside of anything formal or traditional, you will find the mysteries. Some will have support. Some will not. Some will have context. Others will make their own context. And this, too, is part of the mysteries. Preserve the mysteries. Reveal them—and experience them—often!

Temple of Witchcraft