On Being a Beginning Witch, Doing Protection Rituals, and Guarding Against Magical Attack

Live the magical life for any length of time and you will eventually run afoul of someone who would prefer to see you six feet underground.  It’s inevitable; though, the frequency and type of magical throw-downs will vary according to the sort of work you do (and, by extension, the magical groups you frequent). 

For example, spend a lot of time with ceremonial magicians and mystics in the “linear” post-Masonic traditions (Golden Dawn, OTO, Martinists, SRIA, Theosophy, Argenteum Astrum, Aurum Solis, AMORC, etc.) and you’re probably not going to meet many people who have developed magical attack skills.  Those groups are far more interested in mystical states, pathworking, controlling the elements, and developing the “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.” 

Sometimes, the grimoire traditions are studied in those groups (at high levels and only with a great amount of preparation and care).  But mostly such magical systems emphasize self-development and attaining “harmonium.”  Ceremonial magicians typically know a lot of magical history and theory and are often more comfortable in a study or a library than in the ritual chamber.  There is nothing wrong with that.  It is just one way to lead the magical life.

Contrast this with practitioners of the African Traditional Religions (“ATRs” like Kimbanda, Santeria, Vodun, Louisania Voodoo, Curandismo, Umbanda, 21 Divisiones, Palo, and many other traditions and styles), who come from cultures where being a working sorcerer is often a serious full-time profession.  In those communities, your reputation as someone who can do effective work and who is not to be messed with is also your professional standing. 

You have clients who trust you and who often put their lives in your hands.  You can’t afford to lose face and there is a lot of pride involved in these lineages and the magical transmissions they provide to their magicians.  In those groups, magical warfare is an inescapable part of one’s practice.  The stakes are always high.  And rivals can seriously harm you with their malefica.  But such groups aren’t necessarily any more powerful or better than the European ceremonialists (power depending, as always, on the individual in question and not on the system).  They’re just different, coming out of a different cultural background, and serving different cultural needs.

Eclectic witches, magic-doing Wiccans, folk magicians, neo-pagan shamans, hedge witches, and traditionalist-craft witches fall somewhere between these extremes.  The state of the craft is always changing, has trends and popular practices that come and go, and reacts positively or negatively to whichever b-list magical celebrity authors are currently being promoted by a small group of niche publishers. 

Certain deities emerge along with these things (consider that magical energy and magical energy beings primarily follow human attention).  And the amount of depth and scholarship also changes with the times.  Goofy new age pop-magic witch books from the 1970s may seem laughable on the surface but may also really work.  The most gravely serious Scarlet Imprint trad-craft grimoire put out yesterday in black leather, full of spooky neo-Latin invocations, might look cool and be utterly useless (cf. “dark fluff”).

Facing this extremely confusing array of styles, traditions, and practices, the beginning witch can feel really turned around.  Where should one begin?  If you’re on your own, I usually recommend beginning with a simple eclectic Wicca book because that will at least give you a foundation and a way to start leading the magical life.  A great one is Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.  DJ Conway’s Wicca: the Complete Craft isn’t bad (but could be much better) and has a lot of information.  Skye Alexander’s Modern Guide to Witchcraft is solid.  And Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft is probably better than all of the above, but is harder than them, too.  If you want a graduated course in the craft, you could do worse than Timothy Roderick’s Wicca: a Year and a Day in the Path of the Wise.  I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that come to mind as I write this.

I say read everything and develop a practice that feels right to you.  But no matter which craft book you read, you will encounter a few things which are repeated almost dogmatically.  One of them is: you must banish, ground, and center.  Banishing means dispersing negative and obsession-inducing energies (and energy beings) from your body and immediate surroundings.  Grounding means taking the excess energy in your body and sending it into the earth where it can disperse.  And centering means gaining an inner balance such that you feel in harmony inside and with what is around you.

These are all very good fundamental practices for a witch to know, because someday someone or something will want to harm you magically.  But here I want to talk about an obsession with protections themselves.  It’s like constantly washing your hands.  You do it once.  Then you feel like you got some bacteria on your hand an hour later.  So you wash your hands again, just to be sure they’re clean.  Then you start noticing that your hands are getting dirty a lot (compared to how they feel when you just wash them).  So you start washing your hands every hour, then every 30 minutes.  Then you begin to feel nervous about situations where you could get contaminated, and so on.  If this sounds crazy to you, it isn’t.  It’s just a habit of mind that people get into when they become hyper-aware of the shifting line between “clean” and “dirty.”

As with hand-washing, so with magical protections.  If you are engaging in constant banishings, you will resonate (your inner self will “vibrate”) at a very high level.  Your presence will feel very “clean” to people who can sense such things.  And certain classes of spirits, especially those who are aggressive or bound closely to the earth, will not enjoy hanging around.  That is all very good.  Unfortunately, it has a down side: miss a day and you will definitely notice.  You won’t be as lucky.  You will feel energetically unhealthy and grumpy.  You may even feel a strong need to isolate yourself and perform some cleansings because you have become so hyper-aware of the difference between walking in fully banished space and not.  Moreover, there will be some magic you just can’t do because your shields and personal wards will be so powerful that they will block everything.

If all you’re ever going to do is spiritually cleanse yourself (which is a completely legitimate way of leading the magical life), that’s fine.  Stick to your rigid cleansing routine and go about your business.  But if you want to work operative magic, if you want to be a well-rounded practitioner of the craft, you need to get a little dirty from time to time.  You need to let spirits in and take risks.  Witches are, almost by definition, risk takers.

So back to that person who wants to do you in.  Someday, you will encounter him or her and you may not realize s/he “threw on you” until things start going very wrong in your life.  You don’t want to put off learning how to protect yourself until this day comes, but you also don’t want to live in fear of it.  So here is a simple set of texts and practices to enable you to recognize and respond without having to do a hundred Lesser Banishing Rituals of the Pentagram every day.

First, get a magical wash.  I like concentrated “Chinese Wash” but you can get creoline or ammonia (I like Lucky Mojo’s “Buffalo Ammonia” for this).  You can also just use lemon-scented Pinesol and add lemongrass, chamomile, and bay leaves to it.  In any case, get that wash, mix some into water, and wipe down the walls, the floors, and the windows.

Second, make a simple “protection hand.”  Get a black flannel bag or a black bandana.  In it put 3 bay leaves, some lemongrass, and some dragon’s blood resin.  Light a paper match and throw it, lit, into the bag.  Shake it up.  Then say, “Creature of air, earth, fire, and water, I give you life that you will protect me and these premises from all threats.  Be ruled by me in this.”  Feed it with a sprinkle of whiskey once a week on Saturday. 

Third, actually learn a banishing ritual.  If the LBRP is too churchy for you, you can cast a simple shield (Google it) or use the simple banishing rituals given in the aforesaid texts.  Do this about every other or every three days unless you notice something nasty coming at you.  Then do it every day until safe.

Lastly, put a dream catcher up in your bedroom and, when you go to sleep at night (somewhere that kids and animals can’t reach), set out a glass of water close to your bed.  For extra zip, you can add a capful of Hoyt’s or Jockey cologne to the water or a splash of Florida water to it.  That will protect you all night long from being ridden when your defenses are down.

Hammer nails into the corners of your property to stake your spiritual claim.  And if you are attracted to the idea of setting wards and tasking guardian spirits, you can research those things on the internet for some basic practices.

Get and study the following four basic protection manuals: Have You Been Hexed: Recognizing and Breaking Curses by Alexandra Chauran; Protection and Reversal Magick: A Witch’s Defense Manual by Jason Miller; Magickal Protection by Damon Brand; and Angelic Protection Magick by Ben Woodcroft.  Optional: Psychic Self-Defense by Dion Fortune and The Witch’s Shield by Christopher Penczak.  By the time you finish these books, you will know a lot about how to detect magical attack and how to respond to it.  You will also know the difference between being an obsessive banisher and someone who uses protection in harmony with other forms of magical work.

 

 

 

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Women in the Occult, Part 1: Sarah Lawless

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I’m starting a series of posts dedicated to women who are witches, grimoire magicians, healers, savants, and all-around badasses.  I’m doing this for one specific reason (aside from the fact that it’s good to give credit where credit is long overdue): young women, especially young witches, need positive role models in the world of the occult.  Like anything else, it’s historically been a male-dominated field (on the surface).  But to say that only men have been great occultists and have changed the world thereby would be false.  Here, I’m going to point out contemporary and historical women who qualify as “badass women occultists.”

First one is Sarah Lawless (http://sarahannelawless.com/about/).  I’ve followed her writing and work for a long time.  She describes her spiritual work like so:

I am a witch and embrace its full definition. I grow the poisonous plants associated with our art for millennia, I curse, I collect bones, I work rites of folk magic, and I read tarot cards, tea leaves and palms. I can be found in the woods,  under the moonlight, by a fire, and in forgotten graveyards.  You can see healing herbs in my garden, a soothing elixir to heal a broken heart in my pantry, and me, in my kitchen, cooking delicious meals. 

We can learn a lot from her.  Go to her website and check out what she has to say.

To the young women who read this blog . . .

Someone made a comment on Tumblr, as follows:

why DO teenage girls go through a witch/occult phase? I had tarot cards and a spellbook and I knew a group of girls who messed with ouija boards and another who had ghost hunting equipment. “oh yeah Cindy’s just going through that girly phase where she tries to raise the dead.

Ladies, when someone wants to neutralize you and keep you in a mental cage, they’ll often tell you to “act your age” or they’ll dismiss what you’re into as “a phase.”  They’ll say that pretty soon you’ll grow up.  

Please, don’t grow up according to those soul-killing expectations.

This is a form of aggression done by men and women, usually on younger, more talented, women.  They don’t feel like they can say your interests / activities / path of development is making them uncomfortable.  So they dismiss it as a way to belittle you and keep you in your place.  Kate Chopin wrote about this in “The Story of an Hour” (https://www.katechopin.org/story-hour/), where a woman thinks she’s escaped the box her boring husband has kept her in for so long.  But just about every female writer and artist for the past, oh, 1000+ years has had to hear a version of, “Oh, you wrote a poem / invented cold fusion / cured the dropsy?  How adorable.  Where’s my dinner?”

Don’t act your age.  Don’t “grow up” and forget about witchy things.  Don’t get with the social-economic program designed to kill your soul and turn you into a docile consumer.  Don’t fall asleep in the matrix.

Disappoint the family.  Do what you want to do.  The gods are smoking your life like a cigarette.  The parts that turn to ash are flicked away, never to return.  Don’t waste your time burning in place.

When Politics and Magic Collide: the Occult Roots of the Trump Administration

Someone recently asked me whether I would be willing to write about the rise of President Trump from a magical standpoint, specifically in response to the question, if there are so many sorcerers, witches, priests, and magicians opposed to Trump and everything he represents, how could he have possibly come to power? The following is my response; though, I am afraid it may be a bit more technical (and snooze-worthy) than the questioner would like. For that, I apologize, but this is also something I have been thinking about quite a bit.

1. Subjective Universes, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Language We Use

The modeling function of the human brain is a fantastic thing. Through pattern recognition and analogical thinking, we are capable of creating / assuming the existence of entire subjective universes for ourselves, whether through art, rhetoric, magic, science, or any other world view that can be figured in systemic, structural terms. And while we may sometimes wonder how accurate or “real” our subjective constructions actually are (implicitly invoking Platonic idealism in which there is a perfect reality to which everything can more or less correspond), we nevertheless live our lives as if what we believe is actually real.

There is much to be learned by studying ourselves in these ways. Clearly psychology, linguistics, anthropology, political science, and history have more to discover here. And, as self-introspective individuals, we must also have a range of inner discernment privately available to us along these lines.

All such inquiry is good. All of it is especially worthwhile to us as magical seekers engaged in the Great Work of determining True Will and realizing ourselves most fully. But what happens when we encounter those who don’t share these ideals? What happens when the subjective universes we have built for ourselves—the “reality tunnels” that seem most meaningful and true to us—collide with paradigms diametrically opposed to what we have come to consider the summum bonum, the highest good? For many of us, myself included, a certain amount of cognitive dissonance results.

Recently, Tommie Kelly brought this up on his excellent blog, Adventures in Woo Woo, relative to what he experienced on Facebook when he tried to talk about magic:

I had been in a few FB groups, such as CMG V1, I wasn’t very active and I certainly would never post anything public about Magick. My friends list was full of people would would just instantly attack, argue and even bully to some extent. Lots of atheists, lots of people who read The God Delusion and lots of people who were extremely angry if religion, god, spirituality or anything similar was ever mentioned. Like REALLY angry and aggressive. There was also a lot of Catholics and general Christians who also wanted to be heard. I felt unbelievably restricted and kept in a box – different boxes for different people.

Kelly’s Facebook experience is not surprising. When people feel cognitive dissonance by having their assumptions about the world challenged or otherwise threatened, they typically undergo “a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance” (McLeod). Especially on social media, this feeling of discomfort will often give rise to expressions of fear, sadness, anger and defensiveness, since it is so easy to disparage and even troll those who are different. As Kelly puts it: “different boxes for different people.”

In some ways, this is a natural thing. In the Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn talks about the evolution of scientific worldviews in terms of competing paradigms, which culminates in “paradigm shift” when an abundance of data or key discoveries force a change in underlying assumptions. This happens in the world of magic as well, but it is complicated by the fact that, unlike science, we lack an agreed-upon language to use as a foundation.

According to Peter Carroll in “Paradigm Shifts and Aeonics,” “The main difficulty in recognizing and describing the pure Magical Paradigm is that of insufficient vocabulary.”  We have to borrow language from science, the humanities, and the arts. When we do have something to say as magical people, we often have to use more words, take more time, and think more carefully about our vocabulary than others because we are borrowing and re-purposing language to describe that which defies description.

So asking, how could Trump have happened? from magical standpoint is very difficult because we don’t have the language to describe the magical side of his rise to power and our subsequent cognitive dissonance.

2. The Subjective Universe of Trump and his Supporters is Vastly Divergent from All Others

Spend more than 30 seconds listening to Kellyanne Conway attempt to rationalize Trump’s erratic behavior (like watching someone on drugs try to explain string theory) and you may feel your IQ starting to drop. This is because she speaks from a Spicer-esque place of utter complicity with the Trump Administration and its assumptions.

Conway, like Spicer and Trump himself, is a magical thinker, practicing a very thin, very unaware form of creative visualization: if I decide on a set of facts and insist that they are true, then they must be true—at least for me. This is inherently magical. But magic done without awareness (that one is doing magic, that magic will have results, that those results can be disastrous when they are not controlled) will only result in damage to the magician. In this case, we see the subjective universe of Trump & Co. becoming an ironclad delusional prison, essentially a shared mental illness.

Experienced sorcerers believe magic is dangerous in the hands of fools. And this may be why.

3. Getting Past Our Own Cognitive Biases

Given these things, we can turn back to the original question. Asking how Trump could have happened when there are so many magical people arrayed against him presupposes a world in which those magical people would automatically take effective, operative action. This may not be the world in which we live.

It also seeks a magical solution to a political situation. Even though we agree there is a magical side to politics and a political side to magic, the extent to which one area influences the other remains an open question—as open as any question about the operability of magic in the physical world.

Lastly, when we talk about subjective paradigms and reality tunnels, we’re borrowing the language of philosophy and psychology to talk about something that isn’t wholly a part of those worlds. We cannot be certain how magical the term “alternate facts” is (or may become). We cannot fully comprehend the magical power inherent in the Office of the President of the United States. Nor will we ever grasp the reach and operative capacity of the creative visualization being undertaken by Trump and his followers.

All we can say is that in our liberal magical viewpoint, Trump should not have become President. But now that he is, we are responsible for getting over our cognitive dissonance, our mourning and grief, and taking action to make the world a better place, accepting the reality of what is, not feeling betrayed according to what we think it should be.

There is magic to be done. There are people to guide, educate, protect, heal. We can’t wait around for someone to take positive non-violent action. If not us, then who?