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Posts Tagged ‘occult philosophy’


The Big Bang.  Quantum physics. Neutrinos.  The splitting of a proton.  Energy.  Massive Energy.  Fire.  Hurricanes.  Wind.  Waves.  A landslide.  Magick.

All of science has shown that magick doesn’t exist.  On the surface.  The science of the 1700′s, 1800′s, and 1900′s worked to understand the how’s and why’s of the world and to uncover the secret workings of what was considered “magick”.  They did an amazing job and the result is the world we live in.  Computers, cars, planes, and chemistry run our lives and give us the means to live our lives in comfort.  We discovered the atom (which actually is Latin for irreducible) and from there have manipulated them to nearly the maximum extent that they can be manipulated.

We discovered that an atom is not in fact irreducible.  There are two parts of an atom:  the nucleus and the electron cloud that surrounds it.  Imagine that an atom is the size of an orange.  The nucleus is smaller than one of the seeds.  The 1-160 electrons that make up the cloud are each the size of a speck of dust.  The rest is void space.  Okay, that’s kind of crazy but imaginable.  So an atom is 99% void space and 1% mass.

Now we get into the quantum physics part of it.  Through crazy testing that I’m not even going to begin to try to explain they’ve found that the nucleus’s parts (protons and neutrons) can be further broken apart into what are known as quarks.  Come to find out, they too make up only about 1% of the proton and neutron volume.  The rest is void space.  So within an atom, only 1% of 1% (that’d be .01% for the non math majors out there) is actual mass.  That is incredible.  So here’s an example of why that’s so incredible:  Think about an airplane.  It weighs hundreds of thousands of pounds and carries 150 people through the air, defying gravity.  Now think about it in terms of atoms.  For every square foot of metal, cut out all but a single piece of metal about 1/8th of an inch by 1/8th of an inch.  Oh yeah, and as thin as a hair.  That’s how much actual mass is there.  The rest is all just nothing.  It’s kind of mind blowing.

Now let’s look past that to what hasn’t been discovered and make an educated guess.  No one has ever broken apart a quark or atom (that I’ve ever heard of), but my guess is that there’s only about 1% of the quark that’s actually there and the rest is void space.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Eventually you realize that there really isn’t anything out there.  Nothing takes up any space in actuality because there’s nothing really there.

Except energy.  There is motion and so there must be energy.  Even if an electron cloud is nearly all void space, it acts as an object.  It has force and it has volume.  Energy is the only thing that is real in the world.  Now my question to you is this:  how is the energy that is the world any different from the energy that is pulled through your body to create change in the world?  It isn’t.  It is all the same thing with different vibrational levels and different intention.

The next thing that needs to be thought about is the fact that our bodies are also made of atoms which means that truthfully we are made of nothing but energy.  And something else.   There has to be something else inside of us that allows us to be alive and different from one another.  This is the most logical and perfectly undeniable proof of the soul for lack of a better word.

So we are in essence, a soul that is somehow bound to energy.  This is pretty much exactly what the Eastern philosophies and religions have taught for thousands of years.  Now comes the true question of this blog:  what do we do with this information?

Well, as far as magick is concerned, this logic tells us that if we can control the energy of our body then why would we not be able to control the energy outside of this body?  Also, why would we not be able to transform the energy of a chair into the energy of an ice cube?  And furthermore, why is it that we don’t already know how to do this?

I don’t know.  Possibly it has to do with the fact that we are here for a reason and that reason doesn’t include having everything we want without any effort.  That’s about as far as I can get at 4 am.  I’d love to hear other people’s ideas on this.

The more important question to ask is this:  if we are all made up of energy, and the world is made up of energy, and our souls are simply tied to the energy that we inhabit, then what inhabits everything else?  I’d have to say that the idea of a Mother Earth or a God or the Universe or whatever other name you’d like to give it sure does sound pretty plausible when you put it into those terms.   If you take the first point and put it with this point, then one of the most obvious conclusions for me is this:  there is a reason we are here and there is some sort of design to all of this chaos that is our lives.

Okay, that’s as far as I’m going to get on this topic for now since I’m ridiculously exhausted from a long night of work and I’ve got to get ready to go back for a few more hours.  Let me know what you think.

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“It is far better to learn to see in the dark than to shine a light and be blinded.”

The New Age movement has brought with it a flood of metaphysically inclined people that push for a love and light philosophy.  There are very few mentions of the darker side of magick within the basic magick 101 books, and though that may be a good thing for many reasons, it also limits many people’s view of the people that do darker magick.

Dark magick, by my personal definition, is acknowledging and accessing the entire spectrum of possibilities in magick, even the dangerous and scary aspects such as demon evocation, sex magick and blood magick.  This is probably not the most perfect of definitions, but it will work for my purposes.

Dark magick is not in opposition of the lighter sides of magick, and in fact works with them.  They cohabitate every part of the world and cannot exist without the other side.  The dark is the realm of difficulty, of temptation, and of possible failure.  This is the place where strength is derived.  Darkness is the natural state, and it is only through surviving and triumphing in darkness that light can be made.  Therefore, every light comes from darkness and the aspiring healer must first face the darkness before he can bring the light to others.

The shamans of old were not shamans until they had faced the darkness and triumphed.  They had to walk roads of shadows–deathly illnesses, “schizophrenia”, and physical trials–before they could ever do good for anyone else.  Our society understands that darkness is the realm of creativity.  It is more uncommon to have a true creative genius without any darkness in their life than one that is full of depression, hardship, and darkness.  Women must go through the darkness of pregnancy and child birth before their bundle of light is brought into the world.  The journey of bringing light to the world is always full of darkness.

The problem is not that darkness exists, or that people are unaware of it.  The problem is that rather than respecting the darkness as a way to personal strength, they fear it and those that walk the darker roads.  Not everyone chooses to embrace darkness, and it is understandable why people would not.  It is the place of unknown, and humans by nature are fearful of the unknown.  It is also the realm of danger, of destruction, of death, and of pain.  All of these are necessary parts of the road to strength.  It is not in comfort that we gain strength, just as the sword is not strengthened without the fires of the forge or the pounding of the hammer and anvil.

In closing this post, I must say that every magician must confront the darkness at some point.  Do not be reckless when doing this, but do not be afraid to do it.  It is a necessary road for all that wish to bring light to the world and to bring light to yourself.

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There are very few references to scorpions in mythology or modern symbolism books.  I have no good theories on why this would be the case, but many of my searches for information on the scorpion have been in vain.  In response to this lack of information, I’m going to post my thoughts and personal symbols for the scorpion as well as the little information I’ve found.

In every case that I’ve found, the scorpion has represented the death that comes unsuspecting.  It does not attack with ferociousness like a tiger or bear, but instead dances around its enemy, drawing their attention to its pincers while it slowly draws near enough for the fatal strike from its tail.  This teaches us the value of the never letting your enemy know the true danger until it is too late.

On the other hand, there is no cruelty in the scorpion.  It is simple, emotionless, and deadly at the same time.  Cold-blooded simplicity at its finest.  The scorpion will fight, kill, and then devour any rival scorpions and even their mates.  They teach us that we are alone in the world, and that it is often best to rid the world of competitors.  Unlike people though, this is not done through hate or distrust, simply the cold knowing that all competitors can turn around and destroy you if you do not destroy them first.

Strangely, they are one of the only “bugs” that cares for its young.  As soon as the eggs hatch, the baby scorpions climb up on the mother’s back and completely cover her.  She then protects them until their first molting.  This cold-blooded killer knows that it must protect her young from the world until they are ready to fight their own battles.  She knows that in this world, there is no mercy to be had, even for the young.

The scorpion represents death in its most simple sense.  It represents the world in its harshest most destructive nature, and yet with a very protective nature.  Crowley integrated the scorpion into his Death card in the Thoth Tarot, along with the serpent and eagle, the other two pieces of Scorpio.

In the Ritual of the Portal, an initiatory ritual of the Golden Dawn, it is said that

“The Scorpion is the emblem of ruthless destruction; the Snake is the mixed and deceptive nature, serving alike for good and evil; the Eagle is the higher and Divine Nature, yet to be found herein, the Alchemical Eagle of distillation, the Renewer of life. As it is said:–’Thy youth shall be renewed like the Eagles.’”

There are many parts of the Golden Dawn that I disagree with, but on this series of transformations I agree.  It is necessary to learn the destructive nature of the scorpion before you can learn the trans-formative nature of the snake who can travel between the upper and lower world.

This post is not about this Golden Dawn ritual and so I will not go deeply into it, I was simply showing yet another example of the symbolism of the scorpion.  If there is any interest in this topic, I would have no problem writing about it in more detail.

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It’s 600 BC in a Native American village.  A child is born.  He grows into a young boy and is a bit different than the other children.  He sees things that aren’t there.  Spirits and animals are his friends more so than his own family.  He stays away from the village as much as possible and really never gets along with any of the other children.  His parents are worried, and they talk to the local medicine man.  The medicine man realizes that the boy is simply a natural medicine man.  The spirits have chosen him, and it is his destiny to become the next medicine man.  So he begins his training.

It’s 2010 in small town America.  A child is born.  He grows into a young boy and is a bit different than the other children.  He sees things that aren’t there.  His invisible friends are more his friends than his own family.  He plays in the woods as much as he can and rarely play with other children, regardless of how much his parents try to get him to.  His parents are worried.  There’s not much for them to do.  He grows into a teen and never really changes.  His parents finally take him to a psychiatrist and he is diagnosed with schizophrenia.  He is heavily medicated and lives the rest of his life in a haze.

It’s strange how similar these stories are, and how different they turn out.  The boy would have been considered a highly regarded and highly functional member of society 3000 years ago, but now he is forced to either live his life in a haze or to be completely non-functioning in society.  Yes, I could rant and rave about how wrong this is.  I could complain about the backward nature of a society that seeks to limit and expansion of the consciousness, but I will refrain and simply seek an answer as to how we can instead learn to help these children and adults.  So let’s take this scientifically so we don’t just sounds like a bunch of crazies who also need to be medicated.  I’m writing this as I would in a scientific journal, so I apologize for complicating things that are simple.

Purpose

The purpose of the post is to explore the methods for dealing with any “delusions” that would be handled by a shaman or other historical spiritual advisor in both children and adults.  It is not the purpose of this essay to provide solutions, simply possibilities.

Assumptions

Let’s make a simple assumption.  Schizophrenia is caused by some sort of expansion of consciousness to include beings of other planes of existence.  This could be the expansion into either the realm of spirits as well as the astral (dream) world.  There may be other expansions possible, but these are the primary that come to mind.  Thus, the two expansions must be treated differently.  One (astral) should be dealt with as though everything is symbolic, much like a dream, while the other (spiritual) should be dealt with literally.  In this essay I will be dealing with the spiritual side rather than the astral.

It is also necessary to assume that all hallucinatory experiences fall into these categories as well due to their regular use in historical shamanic and magickal workings in order to induce communication with the other planes of existence.  These hallucinatory experiences include drug use, dehydration, exhaustion, starvation, torture, chemical deficiencies within the body, and other easily dealt with delusions.

It is also necessary to assume that if these experiences are caused by an expansion of consciousness, that they are as real as the realm of consciousness that we all live in.  Though it may seem difficult to do, we must not consider these to be delusions in the commonly used sense.  Drugs, sweat lodges, and ritual torturing have been used for millenia to interact with these other realms for real world changes and knowledge.  If they had not been worthwhile experiences or had given false information, they would have been abandoned far before Christianity came into existence.

Effects of the Shamanic Calling

It is important to put into perspective the effects that an untreated person who’s consciousness has naturally expanded will endure.  The experiences can range from simply hearing voices to seeing faeries to talking with spirits and demons.  Sometimes they are friendly, sometimes they are terrifying.  Whispers in the dark, your deepest fears appearing before you while you’re showering.  These are the making of the most fear-inducing horror movie, and there are children world-wide being plagued by them.  Yet, these are the same effects that people have striven to achieve with years and years of effort.  They are not able to be ignored, but medication may not be the best way of coping.

Necessities of Treatment

In order to find ways of coping and controlling this expansion, it is necessary to ascertain the needs which must be fulfilled with any kind of treatment or counseling.

Acceptance

The most important part of any kind of treatment is the explanation that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the person, that there are others out there like them.  It is important to also establish that there are hundreds and thousands of people who work their entire lives to earn the gifts that they were born with.  It is absolutely necessary for the child or adult to understand that there is help out there, and they do not have to simply ignore or try to hide from this gift because that is exactly what it is, a gift from the universe.  It isolates them, scares them, and makes their life more difficult, but that is because they do not have any control of it and have no understanding of it.

Family and Loved Ones

For the person who has these difficult experiences, isolation is most likely their most difficult obstacle to overcome.  Therefore, it is imperative that those who are still in their life need to be counseled as well.  They must learn to accept the experiences as a real experience and not the delusions of a madman.  They must be counseled as much as the patient does because it is not a simple thing to remove the society-imposed idea that only their reality exists and all others are delusions.

Coping Skills

In the immediate, it is necessary to find the coping mechanisms which the patient has created for themselves.  These can range in many directions, and most of them will be effective for as long as the patient has faith in them.  They are very likely similar to OCD behaviors due to the complete fear that befalls them when they do not keep the behaviors, and at some later date they may need to be dealt with separately.

It is also necessary to create coping skills if there are not any.  This may entail lying to the patient in order to create faith in the skills because trust is absolutely necessary for most simplistic skills to work.  This must be considered on a case by case basis due to the need for trust in such a difficult counseling/treatment situation.

Building Skills

Coping mechanisms are not enough to deal with this lifelong issue.  It is necessary to teach the patient how to control their experiences with these other realms of existence.  The best way of doing this is by looking through the more occult teaching from history.  Much will be useless due to the majority being about how to open these same realms of consciousness.  Techniques such as meditation, calming exercises, and basic understanding of the spirit world are important.

It is also necessary to teach the patient to learn from their experiences in these other worlds.  Historically, guides are available to all travelers in other realms and it is only the patient who can interact with and gain help from these guides.  They will be the primary teachers of the patient, and it is simply the counselor’s job to help the patient understand the teachings.  Especially for children, the teachings are not always simple, and it is the extremely difficult job of the counselor of holding all of the knowledge needed for these journeys and feeding it to the patient as needed.  The counselor must become the shaman of old who is training his apprentice, even though the counselor may not have any experience of these other worlds.

Necessities for Success

It’s important to understand that on a basic level, many of the issues associated with this theory are difficult to implement due to societal issues.  It is very possible for a parent to implement if they are understanding and are qualified enough (not with pieces of paper or resumes, simply in how much they understand these other worlds).  They control their environment and how much other people know about their therapy sessions.  On the other hand, society has a very strong distrust of anything outside of normal psychiatric treatment, which we’ve seen through many of the struggles of Scientology.  It would be even more difficult to promote this type of treatment due to the differences in mentality of the patients as well as age issues.

The other primary issue would be that for the immediate, the patients would need be held in the same place they are being treated so that they do not have to feel alone anymore.  The other issue is that all people working their would have to treat the patients as apprentice medicine men rather than as patients.  There couldn’t be any drugs used to tranquilize patients as they do in mental wards when there are schizophrenic episodes because the episodes are necessary for their understanding of this other realm of consciousness.

It would also be important for the area to be conducive to exploring the spiritual realms.  Areas of natural beauty where the patients could be alone would be helpful.  Because many of the journeys necessary to understanding and controlling their gifts require solidarity, there would have to be ways for the children to spend large amounts of time away from the protective eyes of the adults and caretakers.  This would mean that it would have to be protected from intruders and dangerous animals.

All of these issues would require large amounts of understanding and informed employees as well as a large amount of land and funding.  At the same time, there would be little to no government assistance because of the lack of sanctions from government agencies.  This is not even considering the issues with current laws and licensing.  All of these point to a very limited possibility for this type of institution to exist.  I have no idea how something of this type could come together, but regardless, I believe that there is a need for it.

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/start sarcasm

My exaggerated view of a Barnes and Nobles metaphysical bookshelf

Hmmm… this is a pretty big Barnes and Nobles, maybe they’ve got something different than the one from my small town in South Texas. Oh yeah, there’s some Silver RavenWolf, that’s what I’ve been looking for. Sweet! I’ve been needing a sixth book on Magick 101! This one’s got a pretty picture of a flower on the cover and it’s all sparkly! Oh yeah, and there’s the section on Cunningham, definitely haven’t seen those before. I hear they’re good especially if you’ve never heard of primary sources. Oh and here’s the section on meditation. Probably much different from the meditation that’s taught in Asian philosophy and everywhere else. Oh yeah, and there’s the 270 page fairy book that has absolutely no information that can’t be found in a child picture book. Definitely my choice purchase. Oh wait, it costs $31.99? I’m sure it’s worth it. Oh yeah, here’s what I was looking for, the section on altars. So there’s Altars for Different Seasons, Basic Altars, How to Make Your Own Altar, and the ever popular Different Crap You Can Buy to Decor…I Mean Honor Stuff With Your Altar.

/end sarcasm

I wonder why the average Pagan creates an altar. I also wonder why there is such a market for books on the subject. I know that some people need ideas for their first altar, and most books are marketed to the novice in their practice, but the idea of an altar is fairly simple and doesn’t really require buying anything–even books on the subject. An altar’s three-fold purpose is to create a sacred space in a home that is normally filled with non-sacred emotions and actions, to honor spirits, and to use as a magickal tool for filling something with energy and power.

When taking the purpose into account, can you really tell me that you need to buy a bunch of overpriced stuff for an altar? And how can you make an altar out of a book? I know that my altar has a few things that a book would suggest, but I wouldn’t ever go buy the items just to build an altar (which the books seems to suggest that you do). I’ve got a chalice that I used long before I ever had an altar. Yes, I’ve got a few crystals that I had before I was Pagan and was using them for meditation practices. Yes, I’ve also got an incense burner that is actually a mortar filled with salt. I’ve got a few feathers…that I got as a gift my spiritual teacher.

So what is it that I’m trying to say? An altar is supposed to bring you closer to “God” as the Christians say. It’s supposed to open you up and allow you feel safe and calm. It’s no different from the sacred temples of the ancient Greeks or groves of the Druids. Do you really think that the priests of old went to their local Magick-Mart for a bunch of stuff made in China or Korea in sweatshops to put in their brand new temple? We don’t have to hand-make everything like they did, but please remember that the energy in these cheap foreign-made products is likely to be less that awesome. I would rather have an incomplete altar than one filled with items that will bring negative energy into my workings. Magick is a subtle art that is heavily influenced by the nuances of the practice rather than the basics, and so in this case, yes you should sweat the small stuff.

The other thing to think about is that an altar is not so much a tool like a rake or steak knife. It isn’t just something to use in order to get results. It becomes a living extension of yourself. That is one of the primary reasons that taking care of it is such an important task. It needs the love and attention that you give in order to put you into that place of spiritual openness.

How is it so necessary to own 7 books on a subject that is simple. Put pieces of yourself into the altar above all else. Put spiritual pieces that mean something to you next. Yes, it’d be nice to honor the elements and certain gods, but remember that the altar is your gateway to the infinite, and so it should be a part of you rather than some altar template that you found in a book.

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It is not in simplicity and peace that we should look for life; it is in those that are anguished, tormented, and constantly struggle that we should look for life. It is only in the tortured that we find beauty. The greatest artists are full of pain, the strongest warrior has battled his whole life simply for survival, it is in the cactus that daily struggles for its very existence amidst the sweltering heat that constantly strives to destroy it. It is in this constant battle that strength and quality comes forth. Life springs forth easily in peace, but peace only comes after the fires have been quenched, after the battles have ended and the warriors of yesterday stand watch for tomorrow’s struggle.

Life may be overflowing the cup of peace, but it is the one piece of life that survived where others failed that holds this cup of peace. So why do we look to those that have survived peace? Why do we look to the warriors of nothing for knowledge? It is not the sages that I seek. It is the cactus that daily survives torment that I look to for life. Look to the coral reef that daily survives the barrage of waves in order to give peaceful homes to 75% of the life in the sea.

Yes, you may take refuge with those that seek peace. I do not, and never will. Life is about struggle, constant battles, and constant wars, both inside and outside the self; and I welcome them. It is only those that have been hardened by the flame of torment that can hope to quench the fires of the world.

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Ritual garments have been worn in almost all traditions from the beginning of time. We’ve read about this in books, we’ve seen this in movies, and we’ve pictured it when we think about magicians cloaked in blue velvet. The question that I pose is, “What purpose do these ‘magickal’ clothes have?” There are a variety of perspectives to look at the purpose in this common tradition, and from these perspectives we can gain an insight into how we can alter and improve upon our current magickal clothing.

Thinking about it from a psychological viewpoint, it is clear that these ritual garments are like any other ritual tool in that they bring about a shift in perception of the world. When you don your magickal cloak, you are the magician, the witch, the walker between the realms; you are not the accountant that shows up to work every day to do tedious mathematics at a job you hate, you are not the father or mother that has to worry about three children, you do not have bills to pay, you do not have any worries. As far as this perspective is concerned, the more ‘magickal’ the clothing’s appearance, the better it is at altering the mind state to that of a magickal nature. This shift in perspectives is key to any magickal working, and if for no other reason, is a valid reason for ritual garb.
Though the previous reasoning seems sufficient, let us delve a little deeper. Let us again take the ritual garments as yet another tool to the magician, and ask ourselves a few questions about tools in general. Does a tool you bought yesterday work the same as the tool that you’ve had for 20 years? Why is it different? How does it feel when you pick up your trusty athame or wand that you’ve worked with for years and years? It feels as though it is a part of you, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Think about energy as being similar to electricity. When you turn off your television, the screen goes black, but is all of the electricity gone from it? No, there is still residual electricity in the wires and capacitors. Once something holds energy, it is very difficult to completely rid it of residual energy, and in our case, that energy is our personal energy. That athame that you’ve had for 20 years is holding residual energy from that entire time, and it resonates with you because of that. It is not simply a tool that you use, you are a part of it, and it is a part of you because you have drawn energy from it. For this reason, it is greatly advantageous to use the same tools (including ritual clothes) in all relevant rituals rather than change for new ones on a regular basis. For this reason, a single set of clothes should be set aside for ritual use only, hence the need for ritual wear.

When looking from these perspectives, I see very little reason to use clothing other than as just another tool, as the purpose behind using ritual clothes is no different than that of any other tool. Well, let’s delve even deeper. What do clothes do? They warm the body. They protect the body. And they hide the body. In essence, they are the body’s defense against the world. So how does this translate into magickal operation? They are the shield, the light against the demons of the dark, and the protector of our souls. How do we make these flimsy cotton and velvet layers into an adequate armor against those that would do us harm? The same way we would protect our house or turn our athame into more than a pretty steak knife. Adorn them with runes and glyphs of protective nature, spend time and energy crafting complex (not simple candle magick) spells of protection, but most of all, put your desire, no, put your need for protection and shielding into them. Remember, they are not separate from yourself in energetic terms. They are more than simple cotton and velvet layers, they are another extension of yourself, of your soul, in a way that nothing else truly can.

Now let us think about yet another angle on this inadequately discussed topic. Clothing is not only for the individual, it is a society’s means of identifying individuals. All people wear different clothes; the clothes represent a person’s personality, their values, and their status. In the same instance, many people wear uniforms to display that they are a part of something else. Their personal identity is lost when they wear the uniform; they are simply a piece of the company or business that they work for. It is almost always in occupations that value company loyalty and hard work over individuality and creativity that a uniform is imposed on the employee. It is strange in my mind that there is no true representation of this in the magickal community. In magick, as in everyday life, the design and type of clothing is important mainly for the purpose of a creative outlet for the individual. The only true exception would be in the community example that simply does not exist currently.

The last piece of this puzzle is centered on the effect other magicians’ and witches’ clothing has on you. In order to understand this, we must take the previously described perspectives and thoughts and apply them to you, a fellow practitioner, and see what the results are. What happens when you see other people in cloaks, skyclad, or in that really cool ‘magickal’ tie-dyed t-shirt? When working in a group atmosphere, it is important, if not necessary for your clothing to have a positive effect on your group. Do your ritual garments help them to shift into an altered state? Is your cloak adding energy or taking away energy from the group? Is it helping to shield you so that the guardian of your group does not have to focus so heavily on protecting you? Does it help you to share your energy with the group, or does it hinder this? And most of all, do your ritual garments help to achieve the required group goal?

In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to take the individual garment choices and analyze their effect on the group. The most commonly referenced ritual garments are in fact none at all. Being skyclad is the only regularly referenced magickal uniform, but does this truly make sense or was it simply instated due to Gerald Gardner’s perverted desires? The reasoning given in most circles is so that there are no barriers between the members of the coven, but is it truly beneficial to throw away what appears to be a very helpful tool? Obviously, this does not matter to the individual. For solitary practitioners, there are no other coven members to reveal yourself to, as well as no other individuals to share energy with, so let us simply say that it is more advantageous to use some sort of ritual clothing when working alone because there’s no good reason not to. In a group atmosphere, the first problem with being skyclad is its effect on the mind; the initial fear and uncomfortable feelings that come from being nude around others tend to make it difficult to alter the mental state to that of the magician. While this can be overcome by exposure, it adds a barrier from the very beginning. The other problem is that when you work all rituals skyclad, it makes it difficult to shift to an altered state while wearing clothing. We should be working to remove the barriers between our everyday lives and our magickal lives, and this provides yet another one. Being skyclad also means that you do not have a protective layer between yourself and those energies that are called during ritual. It could be reasoned that this also means that there is no filter between yourself and your coven-mates, but that seems to point to a lack of creativity and dedication. It would not be all that difficult to set up a binding among the ritual clothes themselves to allow them to share energy direction amongst themselves. This would take some out of the box thinking, but would not be an impossible notion. Remember again, these garments are not simple cloth, and must be treated as magickal entities in their own right.
The last issue that I have with being skyclad is the individuality that it provides. In a group ritual, there should be a lack of individuality and a focus on group mentality. When working as a part of a magickal group, the mental shift should not be the same as when working as a magickal individual. Being skyclad instantly makes you aware of the differences in the individuals. You know High Priestess RandomColorAndAnimal and every flaw; you can see if she is faltering. The High Priestess is a physical piece of the group entity known as a coven. She is not High Priestess, she is Random Coven; you are not a 2nd Degree witch with experiences in the OTO, you are Random Coven; everyone in attendance is the same being, they do not make up the coven, they simply are Random Coven. It is this loss of self that is necessary for optimal group magick, and it is in this respect that being skyclad seems to be the most inferior ritual garment choice.
It should be noted that being skyclad has its uses. It is the optimal choice for magickal practice. Being skyclad is a way to strip away even the most basic of tools for the magician or witch, and this is a key part of practice. Athletes train with as many difficulties as possible so that they are as prepared as possible, and it should be the same with magick. If you only practice with your trusty athame, you will be at a loss should that athame be taken, lost, or Goddess forbid, destroyed. This should always be remembered, tools should be used to put you at your best, but tools should never become a crutch. The magick is in the magician, not the tool.

Because skyclad is the most commonly referenced choice for ritual wear, I described it and its problems in greatest detail. This is not the only choice though, so let us take the next most common (or at least most commonly marketed) choice—the cloak. The cloak adequately protects the magician, it can be charged with energy, and it can hide the individual if needed (as long as it is a hooded cloak). It seems as though this would be the optimal choice, but there are subtle problems with it. The cloak is still an expression of individuality as stated earlier, and though this can be disregarded for the individual practitioner, it should be remembered for group rituals. This problem could easily be removed by having a standard cloak for the group, but then again, the energetic bonding would not occur as well with having a separate cloak for group rituals. This could be dealt with by using the group cloak for personal rituals as well as group rituals.
Because there are so many types of cloaks available, it is important to discuss the various types. First and foremost, if you are going to be using the cloak in a group setting, it would be very useful for it to have a hood so that your identity could be hidden for the reasons stated previously. It should be warm enough for you to not need any other clothing even on cold winter nights. It should also be light enough so that you do not feel the weight of it. The decoration of the cloak should optimally be your own, with your personal glyphs and symbols covering it. It should be a general use cloak so that your energetic bond is stronger. Also, the type of cloth’s magickal attributes should be considered. All of these variables play into the versatility and effectiveness of the cloak.
There are other types of ritual wear that are available to the witch, but they are too numerous to consider individually. There are considerations to take into account for these as well. Most of them correspond to the previous considerations for choosing a cloak. Warmth, weight, decoration, and general usability are all very important. It is also important to remember that the clothing type should help you, as well as your coven-mates, to enter a magickal state, so it might be best if you didn’t choose your Lynard Skynard t-shirt as your magickal garb (unless you are part of a coven based on Lynard Skynard’s magickal theories of course). It is also important to remember that you should have clothing that will stand the test of time. Remember, you don’t want to throw these clothes away next year; you want them to stay with you for the next 20-30 years or more. So don’t get that super skin-tight outfit just because you’re 19 and haven’t had children yet. People put on weight, they have children, and their bodies mature. Also, the more pieces of clothing that you have, the more pieces that you will need to bond with, so less is more in this case.

Though ritual garments are often not discussed when talking about ritual tools, they are a very important piece of the magickal toolbox and should not be disregarded. They are the primary visual focus for your fellow witches as well as the only tool that covers the entire body. It is imperative that your ritual wear be given as much attention as an athame or wand would be given, so make your choices wisely.

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I apologize for the length, there’s not much I can do about it because it was an interview.

Hello everyone! Today’s post is a bit of an interruption to the normal blog style, but I hope it will become a more regular sight here at Magick for the Real World. Today, I spoke with Holli Emore who is the executive director of Cherry Hills Seminary, the first and only graduate seminary school for Pagans. They are pushing forward to make Paganism a more accepted religion here in the US as well as other countries. Their board of directors and faculty are (wo)manned by some of the most influential people in Pagan culture to date. Their current President of Chaplaincy, Rev. Patrick McCollum, was the first government recognized Wiccan chaplain, and has met with President Obama to work on California’s Five Faiths policy. Jason Pizl-Walters, the author and owner of the Wild Hunt, is on the Board. Their current President, Aline O’Brien has co-authored several books with Starhawk, was a founding member of the Reclaiming Tradition, as well as being the National First Officer of the Covenant of the Goddess. This group of motivated individuals makes up what I consider to be our greatest “think tank” in several decades.

So without further adieu, here’s the interview.

Josh Whitney: What are Cherry Hill’s goals as an institution?

Holli Emore: We exist to serve the education-for-ministry needs of the Pagan community. We are not here to teach you how to practice your path, although you may learn a lot during your student experience. What our founders realized, at least a decade ago, is that people need more than one typically learns in a coven, grove, circle, etc.

We also see that we can expect to emerge in the future as a channel for emerging Pagan scholarship. Our faculty, staff, board members and students are integrally involved in such esteemed organizations as the American Academy of Religion, the Parliament for the World’s Religions, and many interfaith organizations around the country, as well as many university religion and other departments.

I cannot agree more with how necessary an organization of this type is in this time of transition. Thank you Cherry Hill faculty and staff for working hard to fill this incredibly important slot!

Josh Whitney: Okay, you stated that Cherry Hill teaches more than what can be learned in a typical group. What do you mean? Possibly could you give me a few examples of “courses” or “degree plans”?

Holli Emore: Sure. Some examples from my own experiences as a student include studying the basis for ethics in our society, and developing my own personal ethical code. Most people have really never thought through how they will handle specific situations. Many will quote the Wiccan Rede, but what does it mean to “harm none”? How does that play out in real life? What does it mean to be a mandated reporter? And how do you recognize, acknowledge and maintain healthy, yet permeable, personal boundaries, or boundaries for your group?

Josh Whitney: Okay, that makes sense. I’m not very familiar with seminary style educational facilities, so could you explain how a student goes through the educational process? Do you have degree plans that a student follows or do they simply all go through the same process?

Holli Emore: On the more esoteric end of the scale, I’ve just completed a wonderful fall semester course in which we looked at the development of the concept of the soul, from the very ancient Greeks to the present day, and even finished off the course with a Pagan text. All of us in the class just loved reading Plotinus, Parmenides, Iamblichus, etc., in the context of a group of Pagans, including a Pagan professor. It was an academic approach, but highly relevant to each of us in our personal development. Two of us were in the process of developing new local groups, one person self-identifies as an ethical humanist, one person is Wiccan, one was sort of Reclaiming-oriented, one of us is Hermetic-Egyptian – a highly diverse group. You just can’t buy this kind of intellectual and spiritual stimulation. Heck, it’s hard to even find it, for most of us across America and the other countries we serve.

We offer several master’s degrees in Pagan studies, including a Master of Divinity, plus we revamped our certificate program, so we still offer several certificates through the Pagan Community Education program. Then we have recently added (and continue to add) some short courses called Foundations, which are open to the public and last for only four weeks. One of these is a refresher on academic writing, good for those who’ve been out of school for a while. Another which I took last year was Foundations of Counseling. It was designed to introduce the very basic principles of helping others, specifically for someone who does not plan to go into a counseling field. Many of us are singled out because of our leadership or other prominent role in our local communities, but have had no specific training in, e.g., knowing when to refer someone for professional help, when someone is simply being manipulative, when someone just needs a friendly listener, and when to dial 9-1-1.

For those pursuing a master’s degree, our departments are Pagan Advocacy; Pastoral Care and Counseling; Public Ministry; Nature, Deity & Inspiration; and Text, Tradition & Interpretation.

A Master of Divinity involves additionial study, internship, etc. All of the requirements are spelled out in our Student Handbook, available online under the “For Students” section of our web site. Here’s the link to the student handbook: http://cherryhillseminary.org/StudentHandbookAugust32009.pdf

Josh Whitney: So what about the people that can’t actually get to South Carolina?

Holli Emore: As long as you have a good internet connection, you can attend Cherry Hill Seminary. We do not have a physical campus. Our business office is in Columbia, SC, but our courses are all by distance education. We hold an annual intensive in the summer for matriculated students, and we offer a day-long Winter Conference each February in California. In the future, we hope to offer more workshops in various locations around the country. But our students all take class online. This involves participation in listserves, conference calls and chats on Skype, and email. Our online classroom supports virtually all of our class functions, and we occasionally use other platforms to show videos or slide presentations (PowerPoint).

The fact that this learning is available to everyone is a great feature. The thing to remember about CHS is that they are not only working to educate, they are working to provide jobs for this education to be used in (for example the chaplaincy program that I mentioned earlier). The classes are legit master’s classes which will challenge the students to really learn the material rather than skate by. This is not a run-of-the-mill education, and serious students will gain a massive amount of information by taking these classes.

Josh Whitney: I am interested in how your internal structure is set up. Are the employees actual paid employees or do they all have separate day jobs? As we all know, this is a very common issue in most Pagan organizations.

Holli Emore: The executive director (that’s me) receives a less 15-hour per week modest salary. All other positions are volunteer. Now you know why I said our people are very dedicated to this cause! It’s a real challenge for me as management to both coordinate staff and to encourage them as volunteers. Fortunately, all of us really believe in Cherry Hill Seminary and want it to succeed. It is very inspiring to me to work with people who for the most part put aside their personal agendas and always look to see how we can best fulfill the CHS mission.

This is also why we encourage people to make charitable contributions to CHS. I know that sometimes people may wonder why we always include a way to respond with a gift in all our newsletters, etc. But the reality is that if we charged our students enough to provide the professionalism for which we are all striving, very few people could afford to attend CHS. We are a 501(c)3 charitable organization, by the IRS code, and we work hard to maintain the highest level of accountability and transparency.

Josh Whitney: I was really hoping to hear that you had more paid employees, but I understand how hard it is to get a large enough student body to make it worthwhile.

Holli Emore: Oh, yes, to answer your original question, virtually all of us have other jobs. I am a consultant to nonprofits, so I have the flexibility to combine my CHS work with that for my other clients, from my home office. But the time demand for really doing a good job for CHS is increasing rapidly. We hope to make my position and others full-time by next year.

As always, this money problem creeps up. I will refer to one of my earlier posts about how Christians have created their organizations from donations (aka tithing). This may not make every Pagan excited, but these organizations are the same organizations that have brought our culture to a point where people may hate us, but they don’t fear us as they did in the past. These organizations cannot succeed without our help, and if you can’t volunteer time or energy, the least you could do is send the $20 you were going to use for pizza to help pay these people for their time, energy, networks, and Goddess help us, their amazing talent and genius. Remember, they are not just an agency of education, they are an agency of change, a change for our benefit. For those of you who still live in fear of coming out of the broom closet, remember that you are choosing to stay in fear by not helping organizations like CHS.

Josh Whitney: Who do you see as the current Pagan culture’s leaders?

Holli Emore: I”m pausing to think because I believe we are in a strongly-transitional time. Our original leaders are aging, some are passing on, and at the same time our community and communities are pondering what they need from leaders. One of our advisory board members, Sabina Magliocco (Witching Culture) has written about the oppositional nature of modern Pagans. It does seem to be true that many Pagans can tell you all about what they aren’t, and how they are different from the religions of mainstream culture.

And yet, there are some basic human needs which exist no matter what spiritual system or religion one uses to frame one’s spirituality. More and more I am seeing the need for us to abandon the closets that sheltered us during the “satanic panic” years, and which continue to serve some of us in the Bible belt.

I have a great admiration for those who are recognizing the needs in their communities and basically getting down to work, doing whatever it takes. My friend Christopher Penczak is doing this in New England. Amber K and Azriel have built something really beautiful in Ardantane. Thorn Coyle is creating a new movement [I believe it's called Solar Cross?] for providing spiritual training and group experience. For a good many years, the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel in the mid-Atlantic states has demonstrated outstanding leadership. Here in South Carolina, Osireion and other groups are reaching out to each other, weaving, re-weaving and growing our webs of connectedness. The people in whom I recognize the traits of leadership these days are the ones who bring our tribe together, who help us find our common threads at the same time that we recognize our differences. These same leaders are usually found being very active with their local, regional, and national/international interfaith networks. Our CHS head of chaplaincy, Patrick McCollum, is a wonderful example of the kind of bridges that can be built when one both stands with integrity for one’s beliefs, but also reaches out to walk with others and learn each other’s ways, needs, meanings.

You asked who are the current Pagan culture’s leaders, and I would say, look for the little red hens out there – remember that childhood story? – the Little Red Hen is the person who understands what needs to be done, who rallies the community to work together, and who follows through and gets it done.

I must say that I am incredibly excited to hear about all of this forward momentum. I had almost given up hope from my fruitless internet searches for something worth reading and hearing about. These leaders are doing exactly what must be done. They are working towards something. They are not just standing by and complaining. They are actively taking action. This is something that must be realized. It must be realized now when the momentum is waxing rather than waning. This is our time to step up and become the leaders much like our heroes of the past did. Many years have passed since the last great steps were taken, but we are moving forward again, and I say “Where do I sign up?”

Josh Whitney: That makes sense, and seems to be similar to what I’ve seen happening. Since the old guard is making room for the new crusaders, it seems as though the way that things are done is changing as well. As you said, there have been many scares in the past that have kept people out of the public eye. How do you feel about the way that people still hide in their closets about their beliefs and how do you feel that the fear can be resolved?

Holli Emore: That subject is a very personal one for me since I still make part of my living as a consultant. There’s no doubt that some of my clients would be horrified to think they were working with a witch. Then there are some who know and they either simply find it a curiosity, or they love learning more about my spiritual side. It’s very tricky for someone who is self-employed, as many of us are these days, because we have no protections against discrimination; no one has to hire me. That said, I sincerely believe that as people get to know and trust us as individuals, then they will be prepared to accept who we are as Pagans.

I still remember that Harvey Milk at one point urged gays and lesbians to come out. I say to people, if you can – do it! Do it for those who cannot as yet. And then remember that you are an ambassador for a little-understood cause and be out with dignity and maturity.

I must agree. There are those in the Pagan world who risk much by coming out of the closet, and not only to themselves, but to their children. Yes, those of you who grew up in Los Angeles or Austin or even Denver may be able to let your 8 year old step out of the house with a pentacle the size of a baby hanging from his neck and not expect the neighbor kids to beat him senseless, but those of us who reside in Red territory have to make choices knowing the consequences. My son was hit with rocks because he knows that we don’t go to church or pray to “God”…and he’s in kindergarten…yes, kindergarten. So I agree with Holli, if you can be public, do it, but do it so that the rest of us don’t look bad.

Josh Whitney: So, final question: What do you feel is the greatest problem in the Pagan culture as the head of CHS as well as an individual Pagan practitioner?

Holli Emore: Many Pagans have run so hard to get away from the organized church and from obnoxious fundraising that we have developed a dysfunctional relationship with those ideas. We don’t have to throw the babies out with the bathwater. As an organizational consultant, I am very sensitive to nuanced variations found in different groups of any kind. Part of my job is to pick up on those nuances and help guide leaders into ways of doing things that fit their organizational personality, so to speak. I am aware that the idea of a seminary makes some Pagans very nervous; they don’t want to see us “sell out” to mainstream culture.

But Cherry Hill Seminary is a wonderful experiment in growing a new variant which embraces the best of the cultures we encounter, including those we left behind. We do not have to imitate others. But neither must we be afraid to appear similar sometimes.

And about the money thing – as a fundraising professional (I have a CFRE certification) I have spent my career helping people understand that it’s not about the money, it’s about our passion for something. Even in hard times, few of us in this country go hungry, and nearly all of us can be generous if we choose to. At Cherry Hill we have done nearly everything we can do with volunteer support, and we are nearing the time when we will be stalled without regular year-round support from people who believe in what we are doing. I know from personal experience that generosity produces genuine satisfaction, even joy. So, I hope that Pagans — many of whom are very philanthropic, by the way — will increasingly recognize the empowerment that comes from giving. And I don’t just mean to Cherry Hill. I mean to their local charities, to national groups like the Parliament for the World’s Religions and the ACLU. That’s part of our spiritual responsibility.

Anyway, those are the two issues that come to my mind when you ask about my work as head of CHS. As an individual Pagan practitioner, I can tell you that I spend much of my time helping my private students understand that they possess infinite ability and just need to walk into their own divinity!

Holli, I think that we have come to exactly the same conclusions. Money, fear of imitating Christianity, and lack of faith in oneself are the three biggest issues. These are the three that are most limiting because they keep us from organizing (Christians are organized and you’ve got to believe that you’re worthwhile before you can be a leader) and they keep us from fighting back with lawyers as well as pushing new laws (money rules in these areas, but organization is key when you don’t have a multi-billion dollar corporation to back you).

I must admit that I was impressed with CHS’s efforts, and I hope that you are too. Go visit their website at cherryhillseminary.org, sign up for a class or at least make a donation.

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For practicality’s sake, there’s only one New Age book publishing company and this company’s name is Llewellyn.  This is the publisher that has dominated all of your local Barnes and Nobles New Age/Metaphysical section.  It’s also the publisher that’s produced such authors as Scott Cunningham, Silver Ravenwolf, D.J. Conway, Amber Wolfe, and Ted Andrews.  This publisher is the greatest corrupter/influencer of all silly teenage witches (if you’re not silly then this doesn’t apply to you), gothkids, uninformed Pagans everywhere.  For the most part, this company will publish any book that expounds on guided visualizations or the great questions “What is Paganism” and “What is Magic(k)?”.  I always figured that if I ever got hard up for cash, I’d sit down for a week and write a shitty how-to book on the intro to Paganism and would be able to pay the rent for the rest of the month.  I’m sure that this isn’t actually how being an author works, but at the same time, I do know that there is more absolute shit published by Llewellyn than any other publisher, and I think they like it that way.  Anyways, on to the point of this post:  5 books that every serious practicer of magick should own.

Magick Without Tears by Aleister Crowley
There are hundreds and probably thousands of introductory books about Magick and they all seem to be full of the same stuff.  They talk about after doing these 5 visualizations that everything in your life will change dramatically and that this is all you have to do to do Magick.  I’m not saying that visualizations aren’t important, but I am saying that an introduction to magick should have a broader range of things it introduces you to.  And this book does exactly that.  It touches on over 50 topics ranging from “What is Magick” to duality to qabalah and it does so in a very comprehensive yet short series of chapters.  This book will definitely not teach you how to DO very much Magick, but it will definitely tell you where you should go next, and I think that that’s exactly what an introductory book should do.

The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need by Joanna Martine Woolfolk
Okay, I’m going to start out by saying that I have not adequately perused the astrology sections of the world to make too many criticisms about any other books, but I do know that this book has helped me immensely to understand astrology and that’s simply amazing, because I originally thought of it as a very complicated art/science.  There’s actually not a lot I feel confident about saying on this subject other than the fact that I learned a good deal from this book about astrology that I’ve found to be extremely useful in my life.

The Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Henry Agrippa
Granted, this is a Llewellyn book, but it was also written in the 16th century so it’s public domain…  Now, this book is what most of the Golden Dawn and Crowley’s OTO were based heavily on, and since these secret societies seem to be the earliest and best managed groups of modern Magick I believe that this book may have a few keys that could be extremely useful to a practicing magician.  I have not read very much of it truthfully, but I just recently found it and it should be arriving at my doorstep within the next couple days.

I also would like to speak to the fact that there really aren’t any other books that are available to the public that are as old or as comprehensive as this book is.  I’ve looked and looked for books that were written at the time of the old alchemists and magicians and have been extremely unsuccessful.  However, this book was written at that time and I’m completely excited to get a glimpse into the ideas of the time.  I’m sure that much of it will be silly and they’ll talk about diseases as spiritual issues entirely, but they had to have something right or no one would have believed that they could do Magick.

The Complete Magician’s Tables by Stephen Skinner
One of those great stereotypes for Pagans is that they love their reference books…and I’m no exception to this one.  This book is kind of an expanded Liber 777.  It’s got planetary symbolism, numerological symbolism, brief descriptions of many gods, gemstones, herbs, elemental associations, metals, the tree of life, tarot symbolisms, and many many other tables.  Half of the book is tables and half is commentary.  I really haven’t found any other book that has all of this information in a single source other than Liber 777.  Not only does this book have more information, but it also is far better organized which is a key thing when you’re talking about a reference book.

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
This book is fiction and has no true Magickal significance, but I’ve never met a person who’s life isn’t changed for the better by this book.  In truth, the story is incredibly simple.  It’s about a boy who dreams the same dream twice and goes to Egypt in search of the pyramids because in the dream he is said to find a great treasure there.  He is robbed, works at a small shop in a country he’s never been to before, falls in love, meets an Alchemist and all in search for this treasure.  This book is about the fact that life is a journey and that everyone must spend their life in search for their treasure because you can never be unhappy while searching for it.  I’ve reread this book at least 40-50 times and will continue to reread it every time my life is confusing.  Everyone should own this book and it will show you that you truly should believe in dreams whether they be while you are sleeping or while you are daydreaming.

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