by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle
Magick, philosophy, religion, spirituality, and science all intersect on some level today, just as they did in times past. Our desire to unite them again stems from a desire to perceive—and operate from—the living, unified interconnection and independence that our modern society does not emphasize. We realize something is missing from our worldview, and even our cutting-edge occultists are looking to bring things together on a magickal level (at least at first).
As we search for interconnectivity, one of the challenges with many of our current practices in magick is merging magickal art, culture, and religion with our understanding of metaphysics. Along with a hunger for shared understanding, we hunger for deepened culture and art in the context of our spiritual ideas. We look to the old, and some feel it is their job to preserve old ways and reconstruct ancient practices. Others, like myself, feel that though we draw upon the old, we live in a new world, and our challenge is to weave something that speaks to us here and today. Both approaches are needed. Some need to weave and care for the individual threads and specific sections. Some are looking at the pattern of the larger tapestry. The problem when looking at recreating past religious practices is that once you establish and grow something on the best available information and understanding, and then five, ten, twenty, or a hundred years later, new information contradicts that understanding, how do you acknowledge the academics while working in your paradigm? Do you dismantle and recreate again? That’s a fine solution for an individual, but what of a community built around those traditions? Can you continue as is, doing what you were doing? Yes, though that is where much of the critique from the current generation is centered. Many are focused upon the art, culture, and religion, and are not interested in the occult philosophy, particularly if that occult philosophy seems to contradict their current understanding of their ancient art and religion.
While Witchcraft is my religion, I use that word in the deepest sense, as a linking force. To me it is akin to yoga, a yoking practice and philosophy, a wide body of systems existing in a cultural context, but also surviving and being put to use outside of that context. The linking and yoking together is the union with the divine, but it is also that which brings together the like-minded in community. It is important to link my practices to the momentum of tradition through both the ancient Pagan temples and the rural folk traditions, back to our tribal past. It is important to not relinquish a word to prophetic monotheistic religions, particularly in a world where those religions get protections, status, and benefits that our people are often lacking.
Though Witchcraft is my religion, I was taught it is also an occult science and an esoteric art, with all three aspects being equally important. Different practitioners, however, will personally emphasize one aspect over another. I am unapologetic about the occult foundation to my Craft, which provides the bedrock for the religious ideas and cultural expressions. I think of yoga as much the same, a series of philosophical ideas and techniques one can explore that gives rise to deepening religious paradigms and rich art and music.
So for me, exploring the mysteries always involves looking beneath to the patterns supporting the experience. What is the universal, interconnected pattern that goes beyond a region, a language, and a people? In the world of the occultist, we look to the force, form, and function.
The varieties of deities, spirits, and powers are the specific forms we encounter. We build relationships. We have personal interactions. We experience emotions and exchange. For many, the world of forms and images is fulfilling and that is all that is desired.
For some of us, we seek the power behind the power, and this is where we often lose the religionist. In the view of the interlinking and interdependence of all things, we want to find out the force behind the form we experience. Where does it come from? How and why does it function? Is there something larger, and sometimes less personal, supporting the structure of the form?
To many, such ideas are blasphemous, but the occult Witch is always heretical, seeking to explore even Pagan blasphemy in the desire to know and learn. Yes, we do acknowledge the gods are real and individual, as individual as any of us. Yet they are also not, as they don’t operate in the same individual space as us, and at heart, we know there are really many forces that support our individual form. There are cultural group minds and group souls; there is the archetype of the Human supported by a collective un/consciousness. We evolved out of particular strains of DNA linked back through time to the primordial soup of the Earth. As our magick transcends space and time, we interact with all of those forces and know likewise these spirits are a collective of forces gathered to form. In our quest to know, we want to know the larger forces behind the forms.
Despite people’s claims otherwise, certainly the ancient Pagan philosophers had similar ideas, seeing similarity and a certain level of union between gods of other cultures. The Romans wrote of the Celts worshipping Mercury. They certainly weren’t worshiping the Roman Mercury, but a Celtic god with similar attributes and functions. The Egyptians and Greeks compared their gods, such as Neith and Athena, as both weavers. The Romans fused an expression of the Roman Minerva who was already matched with the Greek Athena to the water goddess Sulis in Bath England. Even our days of the week go back to the planetary gods, their expression in many different languages forming a type of universal planetary folk magick practiced widely by Witches and magicians today.
In the Temple of Witchcraft, while we have shared culture and values, we are ideally a tradition of technique, and our techniques lend us shared experiences that focus upon the function of our individual allies, rather than their form, their identity. We don’t require belief or worship of any particular deity to join us in the mystery cult. We do require particular practices to be explored and experienced. Different entities, in our different relationships, will fulfill their functions for us. For example, we perform a working with the Master of the Forge. The Master is an entity of force that is expressed in many forms. For some who perform the work, it is Brid. Others get Vulcan or Tubal Cain. Even the potter god Ptah works with some of the same principles. Some students get a nondescript Master of the Forge. You work with who shows up, as the gods have their own agency, and will often choose you as much as you choose them. Sometimes the ones you choose say no and don’t show up, and if you are not aware, you’ll miss who actually wants to work with you. Often the one who shows up will be unexpected and challenging, forcing you out of your chosen comfort zones and into new growth and learning.
Any gods are acceptable to do the work if they are willing to work in the technique and system with you. That way, we create a culture of common experience and technique, of function, without getting dogmatic to the form of specific religious icons and cultures. We can create a society of Witches who share and support, but weave webs of their own unique magickal relationships and worldview, without having to divorce from community and magickal order.