by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle
In many ways, I find it funny to be considered an “elder” of a tradition, not only because of my age, but also because the more I practice, the more I realize how much I don’t know and look to go deeper. However, through the frame of reference that comes from many years of serious practice within a community, you get to observe trends and changes in thought within that community. One of the most interesting has been the shift in thinking about our relationship to power and magick. I have noticed a few dominant modes of thought.
Secret Science: Magick is the secret science of nature, and if you know how to apply the technology of magick correctly, you will have success. Practice basic skills to build up proficiency and apply the science creativity but understand that underlying it all is a magickal logic that works for everyone if they have the eyes to see it. Witches, magicians, and healers understand this secret science either intuitively or directly through a tradition, which allows them to make their workings more effective. Natural correspondences—like stones, herbs, and metals—help with the process, but it’s through the proper application of these things that success is found.
Witch Power: The power is within you, and within a select and secret few who really can do magick. Some might have occasional successes, but if they don’t have the inner fire, they won’t truly be magickal beings. Objects and correspondences can help focus, but you don’t really need anything except the power within.
Objects: The power of the magick is in choosing the necessary ingredients and symbols and following them in accordance with tradition. Not just anything will do, and it’s difficult to make up new and successful spells without a basis in tradition, so when possible, follow paths already established. Power can be passed by objects like talismans or charms, which will work just as well for those not initiated in the arts.
Supplication: Magickal power comes through the worship of the old gods, either as a byproduct of the worship or as prayer. Ask your personal deities for their aid and support, and like good parents, they will care for you. Some with less fidelity to their gods look at them as “vending machines”: you match your intention to the correct god, and you get what you want. This is offensive to the traditionalist.
Spirit Helpers: Allies come to your aid if you ask nicely or make offerings. Spirits—be they ancestors, angels, or other entities—have the ability to make things happen. Magick is communication, so communicate with them. Bargain. Make deals. Then things will happen for you.
In these various views, you can see some themes and aesthetics—classic occultist, more traditional Witch, religionist, animist. At various times and places, one paradigm takes dominance. You can see themes of power within, power over, and power through. If you have had a long-enough practice, you can probably see a little of yourself in each at some point, and more than a little truth in each, while knowing none embody the full truth.
When seeking to make something happen, ask yourself what your relationship is to the power needed to bring about that change. Is it from one source? Is it a mix? How do you engage with it? What is your paradigm and alignment, and is it really working for you? Can you explore other paradigms and see what works best when? Are you an immediate, forceful, make-things-happen-now spell-caster, as is found in a lot of folk magick popular today where workings are reinforced? Or are you a one-and-done, release-and-forget spell-caster, often working towards the long term?
I’m a secret science Witch at heart, but believe disciplined practice kindles an inner power to engage with the universe. My gods and spirits are part of the patterns found in the secret science, as are the traditional correspondences. For me, my relationship to magickal power is through trance, and the spell has to engage my magickal mindset to enter trance. That effectively engages all aspects for me.
What is your relationship to power? Does it come from within? Outside? Generated? Bargained? Discovered? Knowing how, where, and why it comes can help you apply it more successfully for your own greater good.