Open Heart, Open Head, and Open Hand

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

Not too long ago we received a question, or possible concern, about the frequency in the Temple of Witchcraft’s offerings of the name “Lucifer” and asked if this was always a part of the Temple’s teachings or a new direction towards which we were all heading. In a class on one of the beloved dead taught by a High Priestess and teacher in our school, Karen Ainsworth, the fallen star of Lucifer’s emerald in an Arthurian myth was used as a symbol in comparing the loss of a bright personality, in the form of Freddie Mercury. While it might seem strange for a bunch of Witches to honor the singer of the rock band Queen, I can tell you with great certainty that since the late 1990s, Freddie Mercury has been one of the pop culture figures to show up repeatedly in people’s meditations as a guide or teacher. I’ve lost track of how many people have said something like, “This is going to sound strange, but my spirit guide was Freddie Mercury from Queen!” 

We had another concern from the public when our Aquarius Lead Minister, J.T. Mouradian, offered a class on Jesus of Nazareth. Aquarius is our ministry of rebellion and public service, and will often offer things that surprise some. Similar concerns popped up in 2018 when I did a class on the Morning Star principle, and later, through a year of what I affectionately referred to as my “Heretical Sabbat” series of classes and meditations. We explored the Christian folklore and holidays near the popular and familiar Neopagan sabbats in an effort to claim some deeper mysticism, looking at what was originally borrowed by the Christians from the Pagans, and what was distorted in folklore as being demonic or evil.

Often the question is, “Are you secretly Satanic?” Or sometimes, “Are you secretly Christian?” The answer to both is no. We are occultists at heart. We are open to all kinds of wisdom. We look to see where all wisdoms intersect and draw from that point of light. 

If the question was, “Are you secretly Luciferian?” I would have to ask the questioner what they mean by that word, but depending on my mood, I might say yes, and not so secretly, but also probably not in the way you think. We don’t have rituals that venerate or worship Lucifer, but we have no rules against it either. Sometimes, to get around the obvious implications that some hold with the word, I might answer with “We are very Promethean” which will often force the questioner to have to follow up and ask what “Promethean” means, and that can start a fruitful conversation. 

The Temple of Witchcraft has always been about the light bearer in its ethos. In our first-degree mysteries, we learn the magick of psychic light, sending and receiving light as energy for healing and manifestation and information for divination and answers. Light is at the heart of our magickal correspondences, the power of visualization to manifest our intentions, and to experience true vision and prophetic sight. Even when we think we are not visualizing something, we are still receiving the vibrations of the unseen light of the astral. 

We are also devoted to the light bearer in terms of illuminating gnosis, of bearing information, knowledge, wisdom, healing, and hope into the darkness, as many of our most sacred images are of light bearers and torch wielders acting as guides and guardians. But collectively, we are not devoted to any one entity or moving in any one religious direction as a community.

We are devoted to Witchcraft, but have a pretty wide definition of Witchcraft as a science, art, and religion, as I learned first from Laurie Cabot. We are devoted to the Witch Soul, and through that, what is known as the Anima Mundi, the World Soul or Cosmic Soul which often, but not always, manifests as a Goddess in our history and folklore. When we collectively honor Hecate as Queen of Witches, we are seeking her in this form of the Soul of the World, connecting us all. 

We are a tradition of technique, and the techniques lead to experiences that often have a common foundation. We have no statement of belief, but when we teach the metaphysical foundations of the Temple, those techniques in whole, through a five-degree process experienced over seven-plus years, often lead students to what is considered to be a Hermetic, panentheistic, “soft” polytheistic, mystical view of Witchcraft. Yet no one is required to describe themselves as such, and most members have their own words and statements for their worldview and beliefs. We simply encourage those beliefs to be based on experiences, and when experiences change, being open to shifting paradigms and widening “reality tunnels” as Robert Anton Wilson wrote about. 

Our community mythos is likewise open-ended. We share common structures, terms, and poetry throughout the training, along with spirits specific to the tradition that are not directly found in folklore or history. We look to the great goddess as the function of fate, and the image of the Weaver and the Web. We look to the great god as the function of the logos, and the image of the Singer and the Song. Our occult history speaks of a pan-cultural global flood myth, the Sea People and Water City, the spark of light in matter, and the weaving of light that is also the basis of magick. These common points link greater public rituals and our initiations, but no belief or private use is required outside of the initial training. Being founded in technique, each member has the freedom to explore whatever relationships and pantheons they wish. Seek who calls to your heart and work with who shows up. Much like life, who you think you want and who wants you is different. Often who you need and who needs you is different than your first assumptions, so we don’t encourage people to pick a pantheon and stick to it only, but in this global world, to follow the unfolding strands, the trail of breadcrumbs, and see what unfolds for you. 

Teachers, ministers, and members are encouraged to share what they feel called to share. Just as currents will arise in the solitary practitioner, currents will arise in the community group, and the larger community. Ever notice how there are trends, even in our Witchcraft? For a few years, a particular goddess—or a particular technique or culture—will ascend in popularity, and then ebb a bit as a new tide comes in. When I began, everything was focused upon Isis as the great mother, and then that trend receded. Likewise we have currents in the Temple of Witchcraft, but they don’t embody the direction of the community and do not reflect changes in the Mystery School specifically, as we are based in technique. Even in my own recent classes—moving from this heretical sabbatic lore to now a more Egyptian-influenced metaphysics—does not demonstrate a shift to Egypt for the whole Temple, despite my being a co-founder. Instead, it’s just something I wish to share because the techniques are helpful to me. 

Look at the patterns that repeat, but with different nuances in different times and places to find your wisdom as a Witch. At first, many of us reject all things Christian because of past upbringing, and this is a good and necessary phase to make the break; otherwise we might still be practicing Christianity and calling it Pagan Witchcraft. But once you break away and heal, you start to realize there is a world wisdom, a perennial tradition beneath the mysticism, not dogma, of all traditions, points common to the human experience here on planet Earth, and that is where the heart and soul of wisdom can be found. We simply must struggle to find its expression in our own hearts, in our community, and in the context of our greater time and place. As occultists, look by function and force, as well as form. Look for patterns. Look at themes. Keep an open mind, but more importantly, keep an open heart and a willingness to reach out to other wisdom keepers, and in turn, accept the hand being offered to you.

Temple of Witchcraft