by Christopher Penczak
Temple Founder Christopher Penczak provides some context for our upcoming offering of The Cauldron of Peace.
The metaphysical cosmology and theology of the Temple of Witchcraft was initiated by the work of the Three Rays of Witchcraft, placing an emphasis in our magick, not on gender and polarity, but on triplicy, and specifically the concepts of Will, Love, and Wisdom though individual evolution and the crafting of community. Both concepts go hand in hand, as the community becomes both a cauldron and container for your experience, and a mirror and teacher through experience, and through individual evolution, creativity, and magick becomes an example to further guide the community.
One of the early practices we crafted in public community were three “Founder’s” rituals, as each of our three founders, Steve Kenson, Adam Sartwell and myself, “hold” a particular ray from Spring Equinox to Spring Equinox, and use that energy to inform our work and perspective for the year. Each year, we rotate in the running of three rituals, one private for the leadership, and two public and open to all of the community. The Founder’s Ritual of the Blue Ray is known as the Cauldron of Peace, or Cauldron of Síocháin.
The intention behind this ritual is reconciliation. All communities will have conflict. As we stress that we are a magickal order, not a family, clan, or tribe, we don’t require membership to like or agree with everyone on a personal level. We do require members of the order be peaceful and civil, resolve grievances whenever possible, and work together when their respective Wills intersect. We have a ministry dedicated to mediation and conflict resolution, our Libra Ministry, but ritually, the Cauldron of Peace is a ritual of forgiveness and compassion.
Síocháin is the Irish Gaelic word for peace. It can be used as a blessing, greeting, and farewell. Its direct translation is an “absence of war” or conflict, and some consider it only to be that, with suaimhneas meaning inner spiritual peace. Many consider the words fairly synonymous as the term síocháin is used in the Irish Catholic mass for the Peace of God. We purposely choose it here as also the absence of war, as this is a ritual of healing conflict.
The Cauldron of Peace is inspired by the Kava-Kava rites of Oceania. They are both religious and social, used for celebratory occasions and in times when relaxation, healing, and clear communication is needed. In such rites, participants would toast their ancestors to those gathered, and conflicts and grudges would be set aside and healed. It was believed that the healing was occurring not only in this time, but across time, through, with, and by, the ancestors.
It is a ritual of cauldron and cup, herbal tea and oil. Some have a sense of catharsis during the ritual. Others have experiences that lead to healing, catharsis, and peace after the ritual in their daily lives. During the ritual it is normal to laugh, cry or have other intense emotions come to the surface. The requirement for all is that anything said or done in the ritual that is not specifically about you, cannot be shared by you to anyone else outside of the ritual. It is a confidential and sacred safe space.
As you might imagine, as a leader and teacher within a large community, I’m often the one in conflict with the most people, and by general nature, I would personally seek to avoid all conflict and confrontation. But when creating something, you are often in the place of telling people no, or other things they don’t want to hear. You can’t say yes to everyone, and you cannot accommodate everyone’s needs and desires. People often unconsciously attempt to work out their unresolved issues with mentors and teachers, projecting images and ideas upon them. We all do to a certain extant, and metaphysical training is a continual process of looking in the mirror, polishing it, and seeing ourselves more clearly.
Recently I had a rather difficult conflict rooted in misunderstanding and miscommunication, and in taking things personally. I spent a lot of time and energy internally both promoting the conflict to myself justifying my responses, and trying to resolve it, and made great efforts once I understood the potential of our misunderstanding, to resolve it in the outer world with the other person without much success.
One might be tempted to try any number of spells to resolve the situation, sweetening spells or arranging for us to be in the same location to talk face-to-face, I didn’t know the deeper purpose of the conflict, for myself, my friend, or the community. So the only act of magick I did, early on, was attend the Cauldron of Peace and place his name into the Cauldron with the sincere intention of peaceful resolution. Many who attend expect the ritual to be an instant fix, and sometimes two people currently in conflict are asked by a leader to attend together. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. All we can hope for is that our own feelings around it settle into peace, and we can forgive ourselves and others, even if we are not forgiven or acknowledged. That is a high magick in itself.
Six months and a lot of heartache later, we had a four-hour conversation that not only resolved the conflict, but restarted and renewed a friendship that has grown deeper, clearer, and more spiritually over the course of the year. I never would have suspected this could be the outcome in my wildest dreams and I’m very thankful and blessed that it turned out this way. While conflicts come in large and small sizes, it helped me realize that I would only spend so much time and life force on a conflict with someone who means a lot to me as a friend and spiritual brother.
I share this with our community because conflict is natural, and it’s easy to think we have failed as spiritual people when we enter into it. I know there are times I feel I have failed when losing composure, when taking things personally, when failing to say the kind word when it was necessary, and triggering heartache and grief that could have been avoided. Yet, I would even dare to say, despite its unpleasantness that conflict can be good. When handled well, it is a healthy and necessary part of any community filled with people. When not handled well, an opportunity to learn how to do better, to be more skillful as you progress, and to learn how to take responsibility for mistakes.
Sometimes we can fear conflict, and many think challenge and testing is not the way of the spiritual path. While I’d like that to be true, it’s not been my experience, or the experience of peers, elders, and other illuminated Witches and magicians I admire. Are some of us too quick to rush into conflict, into Witch Wars and cast out another? Yes! Absolutely! Yet I have found that opposition is a necessary point on the path of initiation, many times over. We are challenged within and without. It’s found in our myths. Its found in our seasons. Despite our peaceful views of loving nature, nature is filled with dangers, predators, and sickness alongside harmony, fertility, and life.
Community provides those opportunities of challenge on one level. It holds and mirrors us. It’s easy to think we are enlightened, unchallenged and alone. Often the reaction of some is to leave community altogether when things do not go their way, and while a valid response, I am not sure it is always the most appropriate response for one walking a sorcerous path. While these days the cursing “bad-ass” sorcerer is emphasized among some, eschewing ideas of return, reaction, or karma, one of the most provocative and radical things in my practice today continues to be love, compassion, forgiveness and attempting to act with a sense of the inherent interconnection between us all. I find those acts quite a bit more challenging personally. Power is a part of our path, certainly, but love must not be sacrificed for its sake. Through the two we find the path of wisdom.
Immerse yourself in love. Jump into forgiveness with both feet, for yourself and others. Seek what occult tradition refer to Perfect Peace Profound on a path of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust. Look deeper, reflect and meditate on the meaning and mystery of those words, as its often not what you think. Embrace the love and conflict of community, and work within in to create síocháin.