Hush, Hush

The very first lesson that I share with my students is the importance of silence.

Of course, we don’t literally set fire to witches anymore but I have known plenty of people who have been burned by the judgment or ridicule of others. So, there is a very “real world” reason to maintain silence and anonymity. This doesn’t mean that I support hypocrisy. If someone asks me what my religious beliefs are, I tell them. However, I do not advertise. I also regularly wear a silver pentagram or an eternal Goddess pendant. Both are subtle enough to identify me only to those who understand the symbols. I encourage my students to do likewise inasmuch as they are comfortable. I live in the Deep South. I know that one can loose one’s job because of one’s religious beliefs and have little to no legal recourse. Court judges often rule according to their religious beliefs; and they do so openly. It isn’t Constitutional, but it happens.

Aside from avoiding judgment, both in and out of the courtroom, there are other reasons to maintain silence. Many practitioners will tell you that they maintain a practice of silence to protect a coven secret or rite. This is all very appropriate and should be respected.

More importantly, I think, a reason to keep silent involves the nature of magic and of spoken language. For me, to speak is to conjure. Derrida and Lacan knew this. Power resides with those who control language. We can subvert language and we can evolve language, but we only do this because it is language that gives us power. Most popular representations of the magician involves a “magic word”: think of Disney’s many magical characters, the Harry Potter series, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and almost any TV show or movie involving witchcraft (I particularly remember “Shazam” from the 1970s).

If quantum physics is your thing, a reason to keep silent is to refrain from collapsing the wave.[1] The universe is full of incongruities; all of our natural laws have exceptions. This too is a Mystery. For this example, consider the way a wave is immeasurable. Attempt to confine it to measurement and it collapses. Likewise, if you attempt to contain will to word, it is limited by measurement and also collapses. Language is always insufficient. Therefore there will always be “that which cannot be told.”

Another reason to maintain silence is that one of our basic doxologies is “To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Keep Silent.” This, a statement pre-dating the sphinx, is one of the Keys to The Great Mysteries.[2]

We say that to be the magus, we must “know” what must be done, we must control our “will” in action, we must “do” what is required, and we must “keep silent” with wisdom.

  • We must always exercise control over ourselves, over our will.
  • If we do not know, we must learn.
  • If we do not know, it is foolish to dangerous to dare.
  • Likewise, if we do not know, to exert our will power is both exhausting and maddening.
  • In order to dare, we must have the will.
  • It is always appropriate to keep silent.

Some practitioners believe that speaking a thing changes it. Like the wave function collapse explained above, many believe that confinement to spoken language can “ruin” a spell. This is not to say that language is not used for spell-crafting. But in the instance of casting, language is used in conjunction with the will. This makes the words carry the will rather than the literal meaning of the word. Yes, this is a Mystery. But if we are in causal conversation without the power of will, we are lessening the power of the spell.

Some practitioners believe that speaking a thing makes it so and will never talk of magical affairs without first casting a protective circle. Whenever two or more witches are together and start talking about magic, for fear of “drive by” casting, you are likely to find one who will insist on some witchy prophylaxis. Words are thoughts and thoughts are things. We create every time we speak.

I believe all of these things and then some. For so many reason, I encourage you to keep your silence. Protect it. Nurture it. Enshroud it. It is always possible to reveal a thing – it is almost impossible to re-conceal it. As they say, you can’t un-ring a bell.

[1] I won’t pretend to be a physicist. While I understand the concept of wave function collapse, my understanding is so tenuous that I dare not try to put it in lay terms. While there are a number of more complex explanations available on the web, I recommend looking at the issues involving Schrödinger’s Cat as well as this simple explanation on Yahoo! Answers.

[2] What are the Great Mysteries, you ask? This refers to any number of Mystery religions that involve a sort of “initiation.” The word “Mystery” translates to “secret rite or doctrine.” Therefore, one who practiced “Mysteries” is referred to as a “mystic.” The specifics of these religions are kept “behind closed doors,” or “secret.”