Return to Witch Mountain

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle


Photo by Aron Visuals from Pexels

It’s no secret I love the lore of Hexennacht or Walpurgisnacht, the May Day celebration that is more like Samhain than Beltane where Witches gather (in vision?) to the top of the mountain and even journey within it to meet Dame Venus as Faery Queen of the Sabbath! While the May Pole is fun and most of us enjoy a little loving, my heart is the mountain.

The mountain speaks of mystery and secrets. What is at the top? What is within it? Will you encounter the shadows of the Brocken Specter to deter you? Who knows?!? Anything can happen on Hexennacht.

The mountain is a power image. While I tend to favor the tree as my mythic Axis Mundi and cosmic center for its organic qualities, the mountain is just as popular and is found in many Eastern traditions aligned with a specific holy mountain, such as the magickal Mount Meru and Mount Kailash. Due to the influence and diffusion of Quecha shamanic ideas from Peru, the concepts of building a spiritual relationship with your actual local mountains has grown in awareness and popularity. I’ve had quite a relationship with a fairly small Pact Monadnock here in New Hampshire and have had profound experiences with the Colorado Rockies and Mount Shasta in California.

Some use the mountain as a metaphor for the spiritual journey, while others will argue its validity. There are those who say we are all going up the same mountain on different paths. Others will vehemently disagree, arguing that the aims and forms of all religions are separate and different and cannot be equated.

I disagree, but the disagreement lies in defining what the mountain is for you. If you define the mountain as religion only, then I see your point. But as an occultist, not a religionist, I see the mountains as consciousness. It’s not just the consciousness of modern humans, or even all humans, but the consciousness of the Hermetic Divine Mind, in which all things participate. The mountain is the greater mystery, not of any one religion, but the unifying mystery of consciousness that superseded all human-invented religions.

It is like saying all sciences don’t have the same objective or study the same thing. Absolutely true in one way, yet they are all studying different aspects of one phenomenon, the universe. Chemistry has different parameters than physics and biology, but there is chemistry in the study of bodies and there is chemistry in the study of stars. Psychology as a science doesn’t have much active chemistry, but states of consciousness are informed by body and brain chemistry and detailed more in psychiatry even more chemistry and biology in the study of neurology. We can get even further afield into art, music, and politics, and while not overly ruled by chemistry or physics, there is interconnection and interdependence. These phenomena would not be possible without the others.

For the occultist, the mountain metaphor is the search for consciousness. The idea of different paths up it embodies not just different religions and traditions, the broad and straight paths, but the opportunity to be lost in the wilds between and find a new path, as well as simply cut your own. Some paths parallel each other for a bit, then diverge. Some paths are straight, while others bend or twist. They are all exploring the realm of consciousness.

The mountain implies we can make maps to share with current and future generations, leave markers on the trail, and vividly describe our experience in ways that others will both recognize, but which will also change over time as the terrain morphs.

The beauty of the metaphor is that it is both vertical and horizontal. There is implied progress forward and by ascent (or for some, descent) implying both time and initiatory experiences elevating consciousness. We reach peaks, find plateaus, and make permanent changes to ourselves.

Some people—and traditions—are stationary in the mountain. Such people remain static because they often don’t know they are on the mountain, or mistake a plateau or even valley for the summit. Many are resting, taking in the view, taking spiritual photos or making a painting. Some are going in circles around the mountain, perhaps remaining on one level or slowly ascending. Some are going the opposite direction of the mountain, and who are we to say they are wrong if they are happy with their path? And some are digging into the mountain seeking the interior of the earth, the secret stone, the alchemical fire and the Faery Queen! For the Witch, magician, alchemist and even Mason, the descent is as important as the climb.

The mountain is not really a mountain. The mountain is life, the universe seen and unseen, consciousness, cosmos, and the magickal mystery. During this Hexennacht season, make time to climb, run, skip, fly, dig, and camp out on the mountain. For the mountain is not really a mountain…and yet it is.

Temple of Witchcraft