Q&A With TRLT: Part 3, Sorcery

The Road Less Traveled gave me quite a compliment in recognizing the efforts I make to be evenhanded about my opinions. I am not God, not even a Bad God, therefore I can only speak to my human beliefs and my personal preferences. I’ve learned that, unfortunately, there are those who do not respect the convictions of others – surprisingly, even among Pagans. And I do make a real effort. Perhaps it is my legal background but I learned early on that it’s better to think things through before committing them to writing. If something is worth saying, it’s worth saying well, no?

Thanks for the very real kudos.

Let me begin by saying that not all folks who consider themselves Witches adhere to ritual structures as found in Wicca – or any structures at all. As I pointed out in “Part I,” not all Witches are Wiccans. And as I pointed out in “Wannabethans,” there are plenty of Witches who unknowingly use Wiccan practices. However, there are plenty of Witches who fly by the seat of their broomsticks. No circle, no quarters, no nothin’. They are still Witches. Further, there are some Witches who do not “practice Magic” at all. They consider themselves spiritualists, philosophers, herbalists, healers, and folks who observe the cycles of the earth. Sometimes these people are sensitives, mystics, and prophets – but that’s not a “requirement.”

Like I said in my reply to your second set of questions:

My view [of nonWiccan Witches] is that there are potentially as many ways of practicing as there are practitioners. . . . I actually kinda hate it that the only amalgamated definition we have for non-Wiccan Witchcraft is a definition based in what it is not: non-Wiccan. From a Lacanian perspective, this is disempowering – “lack.” If you have another term, I’d love to hear it! I’d be a big fan of coming up with a new, holistic, empowering term. Sadly, Traditional Witchcraft and British Witchcraft connote Gardnerian Wicca.

So, given all that, I would say seiðr is not a European folk magic in that it is a sort of sorcery. . . .

But what is the difference between Sorcery and Witchcraft, you ask? So much that there is an ongoing discussion that ranges from A to Z and back again. There are volumes of books, article, and blogs dedicated to the subject(s). So, I know you will understand that I am just hitting the high-points here. The nuances are so varied that I can’t possibly include them all in one post, but will make some attempt to point them out in later posts if there’s an interest. Deal?

Before I throw my hat in the ring, here are a few outside sources for you. I wouldn’t want you to just take my word for it!

  • I disagree with about half of this WitchVox article – the connotations of half of it at least – but feel it’s worth looking at anyway.
  • Then there’s this forum repost of Silver Ravenwolf’s perception of High/Low Magic.
  • In this thread, SingingBear argues that, “The real names should be Ceremonial and Earth Magic not High and Low Magic.” I think that’s a better delineation; it avoids the misunderstanding that there is a value judgment involved. But, like I mentioned earlier – I don’t remember where, Sorcerers can be, admittedly, imperious. I tend to like that about us.
  • This post addresses the possible confusion between “Low Magic” and “Dark Magic” or “Black Magic,” a subject I may end up covering in a post sooner rather than later.

To me it seems to be a bit like this:

I’ll repeat some of what I said in “High Magic Versus Low Magic, What’s the Difference?” (Bear in mind that “High” and “Low” are not value judgments. You might say it has a little to do with “astrological” and “terrestrial,” respectively.) Low Magic is a pretty broad set of practices and philosophies which do not require specific ceremony and ritual. Low Magic does not require intensive study or understanding of ancient traditions. Low magic is what you might call “every day magic.” It’s “practical magic.” You do this kind of magic to practical, terrestrial ends. Low Magic frequently requires nothing more than the individual’s will and maybe a handful of materials. More importantly, Low Magic typically seeks to create “spells” that offer tangible/terrestrial/material benefit to the personal/earthly self. This includes protection spells, money drawing spells, spells to encourage good luck, and love spells. This is where Witchcraft typically corresponds.

High Magic, on the other hand, includes a set of very exacting practices which require specific tools, including  – often exotic – ingredients and astrological timing; language use, not always English – hell, not always terrestrial languages; and even “real estate.” Consider the requirements of the Abramelin Operation – no kidding Crowley bought a house in, no shite, Loch Ness, Scotland.[1] High Magic is far more formal and utterly saturated with ancient and esoteric traditions: the Hermetic Arts, Alchemy, Sacred Geometry, Kabbalah, and Angelic Evocation.[2] These require a great deal of ritual and ceremony. Often, operations take a very long time: days, months, up to a year, and longer. John Dee, adviser to Queen Elizabeth – and the original 007, and his sidekick, Edward Kelley took many years to complete the “Angelic Reception” of what is now referred to as Enochian. If you don’t know about these characters and are interested in Sorcery, I advise you start here. Though Dee’s is one of the most complex systems, it is worth the time and effort spent in studying his process.

Quite possibly the greatest difference is purpose. The goal of High Magic in the Western tradition is to have knowledge and communication with the Magician/Sorcerer’s personal agathodemon or Holy Guardian Angel (HGA), the embodiment of one’s truest divine nature. High Magic also differentiates itself from Low Magic in that High Magic is generally has a more intangible goal. It is geared toward nothing more than self-enrichment and enlightenment. “Being closer to ‘God’.” It is intended to have the goal of communication with “higher” entities (Divinities, Spirits, Angels, etc.) in order to bring one’s self into accord with Divine Will.[3] But, of course, it’s even more complicated than that – I assure you.

Further, Sorcery or High Magic is not a religion. It is a set off praxes and can (like Hoodoo, I suppose) be practiced alongside a religion. There are Judeo-Christian Sorceries, Islamic Sorceries, Chinese Traditional Religious Sorceries, etc. It is from these arts that concepts such as casting a circle, invoking deities, and evoking spirits is adopted liberally by “New Age” practice.

This leads me back around to another aspect of Low Magic. Low Magic, aside from “Craft-Work,” also encompasses the highly ritualized communication with “lower” entities. Yes, I am talking about demons. But I am not talking about worshiping demons, I am talking about wrangling them into a cooperative state and putting them to work. Look up the legend of King Solomon. (Here’s one source.)

I don’t want to get into Goetia or demonic evocation too much in this post since I could go on for pages and pages. But, in a nutshell, my idea of a demon is a “disorganized” entity – not necessarily evil but certainly capable of deception and unwarranted destruction that could, to a human perception, be interpreted as evil. For those of you who have no experience with demonic evocation, the best metaphor I can use is this: imagine a demon as a feral three year old on a party-party-sugar high. Left to its own devices, it will be destructive and loud and bothersome. Calm it down and give it something constructive to do and you’ll have better luck. Further, for those of you who still have Christian remnants of “demons” hiding under your metaphorical beds, imagine this: If we believe in an omnipresent deity, and I do, then there is nowhere where God is not. So, guess what? If there is a hell, however you define it, God is there too. If we believe in an omnipotent deity, and I do, then there is nothing beyond God’s use. If there are demons, however you define them, they can be put to divine use.

Yes, it’s more complicated than that.

Because I would be remiss in this discussion if I were not to include a word or two from Lon Milo DuQuette, here is a page from Low Magick: It’s All In Your Head … You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2010. 10-11)[4]:

So what is the source of this power? For me, it seems that some of the power comes from the intercessory “spirit” or “entity,” some from the Sorcerer, some from the ritual itself. But given that all of those parties derive power from “The Almighty Creator,” that’s from where all of the power ultimately comes. But, alas, I am not divine and can only relay my perception. I believe in an all-God because that’s how I’ve experienced my life and how I’ve learned to articulate those experiences. I can imagine that there are others with entirely different perceptions and ways of formulating those perceptions.

Finally, you asked if, as Maman Lee stated would happen to a hoodoo, can power be divinely revoked from a Sorcerer or Magician?

I’m going with, “Yes.”

For three reasons.

If I believe that God is all-powerful, and I do, then it stands to reckon that God has the authority to revoke any and all talents given to a human.

Also, there are ways of granting a Magus or Witch precisely what s/he asks for but doing it in such a way that it utterly destroys his/her life. Whereas the “Witch’s Duh” is a shortfall in the spellwork itself, I believe that there are other kinds of divine retribution. Be careful what you want – it might want you back, sort of thing. Getting what we want instead of getting what’s “good” for us is often the best cosmic punishment.

Further, if the architect of the ritual believes that s/he has trespassed, s/he will place her/himself in a psychological state where no Magic is possible. i.e. We can “psych ourselves out.” In this case, I still see it as God revoking power from the practitioner. In my opinion, this is a case where The Creator has “built in” a default auto-destruct mechanism. This idea deserves a post of its own. Someday.

There is so much more to it all. I can’t hope to cover everything there is to cover in this meager blog, but I hope that I have pointed you in a direction to pursue your own truth.

Well, that was a fun foray into comparative practices!

Blessings, Quarks, and 93,

The Bad Witch


[1] He also bought an “Abbey” in Sicily – from which Benito Mussolini’s government eventually chucked him in 1923. I mean when Mussolini kicks you out of Sicily, you’re not doing a low-prep “spell” for personal gain.

[2] This is just to speak to Western systems. There are Middle Eastern (aside from Jewish) and Far Eastern systems of which I know very, very little.

[3] Yes, of course, there are secondary and tertiary benefits to this aspiration.

[4] I used to set my clock by DuQuette. I don’t anymore. But this section – this I still like.

Clean Up, Aisle Three . . .

It’s been a stormy day here in The Bad Witch’s town and I’m a little late at getting to my post. It seems that whenever it storms, it storms. Know what I mean?

Now, I know I don’t tell you the details of my work like some bloggers do.[1] Some of y’all post photos of your altars and your tools and some of you give scripts for your rituals and some of you report your supplications verbatim. I love you for it. But it just never occurs to me to talk about the specifics of my practice (though I have). Theory, sure. I’ll go on and on all day about what I do and don’t venerate in The Star Ruby and how I tackle “O, Phalle!” (And why I feel the need to rewrite everything I was taught after 2002.) But it doesn’t occur to me to be really detailed. Until today that is.

Let me step back for a minute and give you a few background notes that you’ll need to follow this story through.

Most of my referrals are Christian women – Southern Baptist Convention to be exact. Some are Catholic, but not enough to speak of.[2] I’m always amused that women who were raised to believe that Pentecostal “speaking-in-tongues” lay somewhere between mass-hypnosis and demonic possession are the first to call on an Occultist when thing get out of their Preacherman’s reach. But, Lawd! Don’t tell nobody!

My discretion, my banal appearance, and my knowledge of Scripture (and ways of showing that Jesus approves of “what we do here today”) make me very popular among the polyester peplum crowd.

Oh, and my effectiveness. That too.

Most of those who call me want me to help out with things for which they are simply unwilling to pay a psychologist or a lawyer. So, I advise them and give them whatever placebo they think they need – and ultimately leave them with the business card of a local psychologist or a lawyer. No charge.

But every once in a while there’s something real that needs handling.

This was the case with a woman I helped with a “house issue” a few years back. (It’s The South; we don’t say “haunting” or “spiritual disturbance” or “demonic” anything – it’s a “house issue.”) Back then, she just had a “bad feeling about the place.” It is a huge old farmhouse in a little-bitty town the next county over. It had been her rents-in-law’s place, they had given it to their son, he had married her – we’ll call her Estelle, and she and her husband had lived there for thirty years until he died – a few months before “the issue” began.

She’d had her minister come out and “bless” the house a little after the funeral. Not only did things not improve, they deteriorated. She reported an increasing sense of dread, particularly in certain areas of the house, things would inexplicably break – not always precipitated by a fall, her children and grandchildren reported disembodied voices and vague apparitions: typical stuff. Estelle’s granddaughter is a local (very young, insanely successful) businesswoman with whom I have a friendly working relationship. One day while conducting business, she pointed at my pendant, “Do you do things for other people?”[3]

That’s how that happened.

This morning, Estelle’s daughter, we’ll call her Sally, phoned me and asked me to “help out” as she believed she may have been (in a whispered undertone) “cursed.” After a lengthy conversation I surmised the following. Sally knows this woman – um, Veronica – who, Sally feels, has some sort of “black magic” power over her. I tried all of the standard, “Are you giving Veronica power over you,” examination only to discover that this was indeed, a real deal. I won’t spin too much energy on telling what’s the specific what –as I don’t want to feed it. But I feel like I can offhandedly tell you this much: Sally has always been a bit competitive with Veronica; they went to high school together, they fought over boys together, eventually they fought over husbands, etc. Veronica always seemed to end up on top and it seemed, to Sally, that it was always at Sally’s expense. Sally has taken to calling Veronica “The Evil Bitch” as a proper noun in everyday conversation. Obvs there’s more to it – but that’ll do for now, no? Now, Sally believes that a series of very unlikely events have been directly caused by The Evil Bitch. After a series of discoveries I found that, “Yes, The Evil Bitch is doing these things,” and, “No, Veronica is not doing these things.” Everything pointed to Veronica being fairly detached from and disinterested in Sally and, well, to be honest, utterly benign. The Evil Bitch on the other hand was – well – an evil bitch. I scratched my head for a minute.

If you have been through this kind of thing before, I beg you – don’t tease me that it took me a minute to figure out WTF was happening. I’m not new at handling my own, um, “demons,” but, despite having left a stack of doctor and lawyer’s business cards about town, I haven’t handled more than a half-dozen real issues for other folks (aside from family – they count as my own demons[4]). Most of these have been fairly run-of-the mill.

When it occurred to me, it occurred to me hard.

Sally has put so much energy into developing the The Evil Bitch character – in frighteningly intentional ways – that she created a fecking thoughtform – not just a larva or gooey astral pest – one strong enough to actually do things. It wears Veronica’s face because that’s how Sally created it. It looks – for all intents and purposes – that Veronica is doing the damage because Sally created The Evil Bitch to pass for Veronica. It soothes Sally’s psyche to believe that Veronica is “out to get her” and it creates a much needed villain for Sally and her catty girlfriends. (Not unlike Batman, hmmm.) But, having poured that much energy into an energy being, giving it a name, giving it a purpose, no shit – giving it instructions. (I kid you not; sometimes I just want to shake people.) And, of course, because Sally is not a trained Magician who knows better, the damned thing has no death date or means of constraint. Fun, huh? I can dismantle the thing – getting Sally to let go will be the hardest part – but it won’t be cool. And I’ll still need to leave her with a card for the local psychiatrist.

Here’s my parting thoughts on this. I know that there are people tossing energy around all the time; I know that, often, this causes manifestations. I know that “normal” folks “work magic” all the time. None of that is a surprise to me, nor should it be to you.

I am called to mind of a conversation – what? Three years ago? – I had with someone who purported to be a hard-core Magical practitioner. In the context of a profound conversation, I asked about his/her thoughts on egregores, servitors, and elementals. S/he said that s/he “observed the elementals” and that s/he had “many servitors” and that “some of them don’t even know [that they are his/her servitors].” More head scratching.[5]

I only tell you this because I use this instance to remind myself that not everyone is on the same page when it comes to genuine Magical practice. But, like I also said – everyday-folks toss energy into the aether and get appropriate manifestations. But does that mean that they are “doing Magic”?

I’m not saying that they aren’t – this is a sincere question. Is what Sally did “Magic”? Sure, it’s akin to what Magicians do on purpose; does the fact that she did it unknowingly and ill-advisedly make it “not Magic”? Is it about “intent” again?

If so, then is what the aforementioned Self-proclaimed Magical Practitioner (SMP) does really “Magic”? Or is it “Just the way the universe works”? S/he has intent – just not knowhow. Does the fact that s/he doesn’t understand the theory behind it – or even have the language to discuss it competently – make it “not Magic”?

We Magicians like to be imperious[6] and it pisses some of us off just a little when those we perceive to be our intellectual inferiors “stumble onto” our playingfield. And we might even like to say, “Sure, it’s magic; but Sally had to call a real exorcist to sniff out and take care of The Evil Bitch.” Or, “Sure, it’s Magic; but SMP would be laughed out of any conversation with self-respecting Magicians and prolly wouldn’t be able to control his/her thoughtforms once created.”

But, then again . . .

 

Whatcha think?

Blessings, Quarks, 93,

The Bad Witch

 


[1] I figure that just because I don’t tell you about what I cook every night doesn’t mean that you assume my family starves, or because I don’t tell you about social life you think I’m a hermit or a pariah, or because I don’t tell you about my BMs you assume I have a toxic colon, or because I don’t tell you about my sex life you think I’m celibate (or a prude). I figure y’all have enough sense to know my life is bigger than this page – and I appreciate that about you. Likewise, I figure that just because I don’t tell you the specifics of my training and practice schedule doesn’t mean you should assume I don’t have one. I am a Witch after all.

[2] Anyway, Southern Catholicism is more like Northern Baptistery than it is like anything in my experience with The Roman Catholic Church.

[3] I always feel like I look a little like the late Zelda Rubinstein when I first talk to someone. I can’t shake the feeling that I am 4’3” and my hair won’t stay tied up.

[4] Remind me to tell you about my Momma’s china cabinet and my (adult) nephew’s garbage can monster. *Hand on head.*

[5] Servitors, just for the record, are not human beings that one manipulates into doing our bidding without their consent. Those are called “victims.”

[6] Admit it.