A Magician's Blog

A Magician's Blog

'Hocus Pocus' and the Halloween Witch

Three goofy, haggard witches prance around a bubbling cauldron. A young girl is bewitched, frozen in a chair, a blank expression on her face. The head of the group consults an enchanted book bound in wrinkled skin. “…add a dash of pox, and a dead man’s toe. Dead man’s toe, and make it a fresh one!” These hags have used magic to lure the young girl away from home in order to accomplish a sinister magical act. 

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“Winnie… I smell a child!”

“And what dost thou call that?”

“…A child…”

Unbeknownst to the witches the young girl’s brother has snuck into the cottage to try and rescue his sister. He watches the witches from the rafter above as they brew their green, glowing potion. 

The head witch sniffs the completed potion with satisfaction. “One drop of this, and her life will be mine—I mean, ours.”

The witches surround the young girl, putting the ladle of potion to her lips.

“No!” shouts the older brother, distracting the witches. He jumps to the floor, grabs the cauldron, and empties its steaming contents onto two of the witches. The third witch, however, without missing a beat, zaps the boy with lighting from her hands, and he falls unconscious. 

Suddenly the witches notice a change in the girl. She begins to glow with a smokey light. The drops of potion which touched her lips seconds before have already taken effect. “Sisters, prepare thyselves. ’Tis her life-force! The potion works! Take my hands, we will share her…”

Together the witches suck every drop of life-force from the young girl, and realize that each of them have transformed to look younger than they were. 

The young girl is dead. 

The hilarious, campy and colorful 1993 Disney movie “Hocus Pocus” easily hides its dark undertones under layers of punchy comedy. The witch-sister trio Winnie, Sarah, and Mary make the most lovable of villains! Somewhat ironically, it seems the witch is perhaps the only archetypal character who can be laughed at and loved as they kill children… perhaps we must laugh at such a horrific idea in order to fully understand it. Witches were once seen as the source of demonic activity in the world, the untimely death or disappearance of children, the poisoners of water supplies, and the casters of curses. Witches used to be seen as harbingers of pestilence, murderers of children, cannibals, devil worshippers, and conspirators. Today witches are seen by popular culture not as something to be persecuted, but celebrated; whether it be “Charmed,” “American Horror Story,” or the upcoming “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” the witch is often the good guy, the person who uses their magical abilities to save the day. Perhaps this great shift in Western society over the last several hundred years from utter terror at the idea of a witch, to joy and festivity at the idea of the witch, is indicative of a slow overcoming of the fears which were once pinned upon the sorcerous heretic. One thing this shift is not indicative of, however, is an end to social bigotry and intolerance which indeed caused the systematic murder of thousands of people. Today we will explore these phenomena and seek to address the darker acts attributed to perceived witches. What can “Hocus Pocus,” and other depictions of the classic Halloween-Hag-Witch, teach us about our society?

It is an often undermined fact that the means that enabled the murder of thousands during the witch hunts was not the fear of Satan, death, pestilence, or curses: it was the hatred and subjugation of niche social groups, minorities, and those with the least amount of power in a hierarchical and highly conscientious society. In an interview with www.eurozine.com Carlo Ginzburg, the acclaimed historian, states, “In 1348 Jews all over southern France were massacred after being accused of spreading the Black Death. Early in the fifteenth century, this conspiracy model re-emerged, though in a different guise. This time it was the practitioners of the Black Arts who were supposed to be behind the veiled attack on Christianity. They were no longer in league with the Muslims [or Jews], but with the Devil. Conspiracy had thus become omnipresent.”

In (his perhaps magnum opus) “Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath” Ginzburg devotes a chapter to the mass persecution of lepers, Jews, and Muslims in Western Europe which continued through several centuries, ever evolving to find a new group to accuse of conspiracy. Many common elements were shared by these accusations: the poisoning of wells, the meeting in a secret place in the woods, the secret practice of revelrous heresy, the blighting of crops, the spread of disease, and the stealing and murdering of children—heresy being arguably the most commonly accused crime of all of these. The idea held among people at the very top of society was that non-Christian, non-powerful people must be in league with evil forces and against the power structure of society. The lepers, outcast from society, were accused of attempting to poison water supplies and cause leprosy to spread. The Jews, holding non-Christian beliefs, were seen as against Catholicism and thus must not respect the Monarchy’s “divine authority.” The Muslims, seen as foreign and placing faith in non-Christian Mohammed, must also be against the Church. Finally women, treated and seen as subservient to men and easily led astray without their husband holding a tight leash, were slowly lumped in with the mistrusted, and the idea that the least powerful in society were farther from God and closer to Satan led society to eventually believe that all of these segregated groups held a sinister, and indeed Satanic agenda. By then destroying these groups their funds, resources, and land could be snatched up by those holding the power: if the lepers were jailed their charitable funds could be seized, if a widow was called diabolic her land could be taken by the government. Those holding “Pagan,” “outsider” religious beliefs could be effectively erased from society, bolstering the influence held by the Church. It was a simple and nefarious process directed by the powerful and aided by the majority of society who benefited from the powerful overruling systems.  

We see the “Halloween Witch” idea explored through the 2015 horror film “The Witch.” Although less light-hearted than “Hocus Pocus” the same events occur at the beginning of both films: a witch steals a child, takes it back to her cottage, and in killing it uses its essence in her magic. Why were witches, predominantly (though never exclusively) women, accused of doing this? It is hypothesized that the fear of women, their reproductive abilities, sexual power, and biblical attributions caused religious fundamentalists with pent up desires to target vulnerable or disliked women with the threat of witch. Although this is obviously a large factor, as evidenced by the misogyny recorded in the Malleus Maleficarum, it was not the cause. As I spoke about before, the cause of the long-standing series of persecution of social groups was put into action by social hierarchy, kindled by subjugation of niche groups, and the flames were then fanned by corrupt people in positions of power, taking advantage of the main fears of the average person. 

It is undeniable that a hatred of paganism helped motivate the witch hunts. The image of the Halloween witch with pointy hat and broomstick links specifically to pre-Christian religious beliefs. The pointy hat was at one time believed to be old fashioned and was associated with country dwellers and people behind in the times. The broomstick of the witch arose out of pre-Christian fertility rites where witches would ride large stalks of fennel or other sacred plants. Sexism, agism, and ablism can be found along side the pagan intolerance; during persecutions people were seen as extra suspicious if they were a woman living alone, elderly or disabled men and women were often cast out and thus seen as living in the shadows, and because these people predominantly held less social power they were easily attacked. Folk magicians were rarely targeted with accusations, but the fact that they were Christian and did not work in groups meant conspiracy and heresy could not be pinned upon them, so they were free to sell their charms. The message here is obvious: if you were involved in powerful institutions such as the Church and were not suspected of conspiring against powerful figures within a niche social group, you were quite unlikely to be labeled as a witch, heretic, or conspirator, and thus killed. 

We hold in our past a history of murder, oppression, and subjugation of niche social groups and those who hold less power in society. These groups were accused of bringing disease, crime, terror, and evil into the society. They were seen as a risk to the integrity of many cultural beliefs and societal structures. Conscientiousness (as opposed to openness) within the society allowed this fear to spread across the society and result in the Western European witch hysteria of the Early Modern period which destroyed so many lives. 

In our modern society we must look back at our past and realize that we are not removed from it. In the aforementioned article Carlo Ginzburg asserts the same when it is suggested that the same form of paranoia influenced the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. “…yes, today the comparison is striking. It’s one of those things that can happen when you work as an historian -­ those sudden flashes of contemporaneity. The last couple of years has, at least, clearly demonstrated that the fear of conspiracy still is a powerful force today. It belongs to those central historical ideas that help to determine our view of reality. I see it as part of my challenge as an historian to draw attention to such historical accretions – to dispel the belief that our own lives are separated from the past. In truth, anything that can rid us of our illusion of historical autonomy pleases me.”

I believe it is our duty to look at the world around us and ask if the atrocities of the past are being repeated. In our respective cultures of today, do we accuse minority social groups of conspiring against us? Do we shun people who don’t believe the same things we believe? Do we label people as evil for holding onto old fashioned beliefs? Do we mistreat those who are weak, diseased, physically disabled, or mentally unwell? Do we steal the land and resources of people who hold the least amount of slices in the pie of powerful governments? Most importantly, will we silence people who are lesser heard, or will we let them speak? Will we defend freedom of religion or call certain ones evil? Will we stand up and defend the right to personal liberty, or will we toss another stick onto the blazing fire?

Whether we are laughing at a comedy or trembling at a horror, there are often potent lessons to be learned, whether about real magic, or of important world history. Movies, whether horror, comedy, or action, are not the enemy: they are often the hero. They teach us about our own feelings and thoughts when presented with horrors based in reality. When a movie sticks with us it allows us to eventually question why certain characters are portrayed a certain way. Because of stories we question why Little Red Riding Hood encountered the Big Bad Wolf, why Santa Claus gives toys to children, why mermaids drown sailors, and why witches steal children. When we dig down under the surface we discover worlds of reason behind the timeless stories and characters we grew up with as children. The lessons we learn then are all the more profound. The story is simply the messenger, it is up to us to read deeper. 

We are lucky now as witches to be presented with a plethora of media and art forms that present witchcraft as positive and beneficial. No longer is it seen as heretical, immoral, and criminal by most of western society. We can watch many witch-characters presented as a positive force in the world. But we can also see many witches interpreted as villains; and it is up to us to understand why. 

This entry in Austin Shippey’s “Magic in the Movies” series, where he will be exploring the historical beliefs and events that influenced our favorite magical movies, first appeared in the October 2018 edition of Witch Way Magazine.

Image belongs to Disney.

by Austin Shippey

Real Occultism in the Horror Film "Hereditary"

*MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE*

From flickering candles and white gossamer fabric, to an anticlimactic seance scene, to one of the most grand demonic rituals ever put to film, "Hereditary" is an iconic occult horror which, surprisingly, contains a lot of accurate theoretical magical beliefs. 

    Although not revealed until the end, throughout the movie the story quietly hints toward the idea that a demonolatrous cult is controlling the lives of the main characters, leading them toward the completion of an evil ritual. 

    Today we will explore the magical theory and history within “Hereditary.”

 The seal of Paimon, worn as a necklace in “ Hereditary ”

The seal of Paimon, worn as a necklace in “Hereditary

The movie, from very early on, hints at a demonic occult underpinning. We begin our story by witnessing a funeral where the deceased's daughter Annie (played by Toni Collette) mentions her mother's "private rituals." Around her and her mother's necks hang a well-known goetic symbol: the seal of the demon Paimon, "one of the Four Kings of Hell" in classic demonology.

    Demonolatry is a practice within certain niche magical groups of raising demons up to the level of gods and worshipping them as such. It is a taboo practice within magic, and very much a minority; the classical methods of demonic magic almost singularly work through a High God, typically Abrahamic, in order to command and subdue the demonic legions. In demonolatry, the opposite is true: the demons become the "High Gods", and are revered as such. It is generally believed that this practice is counter to the true practices of demonic magic which produce viable results, yet demonolators disagree.

    The main methods of summoning the demon Paimon in “Hereditary” consist mainly of lighting candles, focusing on a triangle carved or constructed out of wood, the inscribing of invocational words of power, and the sacrificing of humans for the demon to manifest. 

 A triangle is carved into the wooden floor

A triangle is carved into the wooden floor

Although the methods of conjuring a spirit in “Hereditary” are inspired by actual historical depictions of summoning powerful spirits, they are equally fictitious. The simple words "three will come before him" from Paimon’s description in “the Goetia” has been creatively interpreted as "three people will be sacrificed before he manifests" in the film. The goal in the movie is to allow Paimon to manifest on earth by possessing a human body, similar to the idea in “Rosemary's Baby,” and paralleling the story of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is simply one example of a powerful spirit made manifest in human form, other well-known examples would be Heracles and Dionysus.  The idea of a divine or elemental spirit living on earth as a mortal human has held much cross-cultural belief. Modern hermetic magicians have theorized that it is possible for a human soul to become displaced, often in a near-death experiences, and for a spirit to move in and take over. This has been seen as perhaps the true inspiration behind the myth of the changeling.

    Although real magicians frequently use a triangle of manifestation, words of power, and candles, these are not the means by which spirits are summoned. The true power of magical conjuration is kabalistic—meaning the reason the spirits are controlled is because they are under the authority of the Divine, the highest source of God. It is often taught in occult circles that, without this predominant connection to the divine, a spirit, angel, or demon will not be successfully summoned, or otherwise disobey greatly and cause much havoc. Demonolatry, contrarily, holds the idea that if a demon is served well, sacrificed to, or "cozied up” to, it will take a liking to the magician and out of sympathy give the magician what they want. This is refuted by most classical grimoires and most modern day magicians. Often the two types of practitioners are distinguished: a "magician" works kabalistically or through the Divine, someone who does not operate this way is often denounced as a "sorcerer."  Most practitioners of grimoire magic sacrifice little or nothing to any demon, and signing a contract or making a pact is seen as something which has negative repercussions in this life and many lives to come until the debt is repaid. Many hermetic schools of magic believe that many spirits, in their respective otherworldly realms, keep human souls in servitude until their debts are paid off. Although modern magicians tend to hold these speculations and opposition to pacts with spirits, there are actually historical examples of grimoires which do precisely the opposite...

    "The Grand Grimoire" instructs the sorcerer in making a classic "pact with the devil," ie signing a contract with a spirit called Lucifuge Rofocale. His name means "The one who flees the light," a perfect kabalistic example of a fallen angel/demon/spirit of malkuth fallen from kether; a spirit who once held great holiness and might and who has fallen to a simple and more earthly state of existence. This is interesting as a theory of the nature of the Goetic demons, once Gods, who have now fallen to the state of lesser spirits hardly remembered, yet still holding a store of power.  In "The Grand Grimoire" the sorcerer is told to make numerous sacrifices of animals, summon Lucifuge, and then sign the contract he presents in order to be in servitude to him in exchange for a great blessing of success in life.

    Toward the end of "Hereditary" the main, innocent characters are tricked into invoking the demon Paimon into their house. The sorceress who gave Annie the charm states clearly that the whole family needs to be in the house when the incantation is read. We can surmise that the words scrawled across the house's walls by the sorceress grandmother form the house effectively into a vessel (similar to a magic triangle) for the spirit to manifest in. This is hinted at by the fact that Charlie's (played by Milly Shapiro) attic bedroom forms a sharp triangle, as does the roof of her treehouse.

    The mother within the family, Annie, acts as a medium briefly for Charlie. Mediums have been used in ceremonial magic since ancient times, and modern magicians often employ psychics to receive communication from spirits. A famous example is the Enochian magic by John Dee and Edward Kelley.

    After this invocation the story takes a turn for the worst. Blue, flashing light follows Peter, (played by Alex Wolff) the body chosen for Paimon. Fear and strange visions overwhelm him. Mistrust and discord plagues the family. It all ends in the grand manifestation of Paimon within a magic triangle: the treehouse. Another magic triangle is formed by the three corpses arranged ceremonially by the demonolatrous cult.

    There is one theory that Paimon, having travelled from the East and riding a camel, and being effeminate in appearance, actually began as a Middle Eastern pagan Goddess. Another claim by Poke Runyon, the famous Goetic magician, is that the name "Paimon" translates to "a tinkling sound" hinting at the origin of Paimon being the diminutive Christianized form of Isis herself, echoing her tinkling sistrum. Although these hypotheses are unproven, there is a possibility. At the end of Hereditary we can hear "a tinkling sound" incorporated into the score.

    In the end the most surface-level interpretation is that the demonolators win and successfully incarnate a demonic spirit in the mortal world. Utilizing heinous methods the sorcerers achieve their goals of sacrificing a family to bring about their desires of success, money, and "good familiars."

    "Hereditary" has achieved much critical acclaim for its craftsmanship and mastery of a sense of dread and evil. But what can we take from this as people interested in world spirituality and religious mythology? Many who watch this film will call the sorcerers "witches" for lack of a better term. Many who hear that there are real ceremonial magicians and practitioners of grimoire magic will assume that the occult is a place of violence, evil, and crime. Such has been the case for many decades. Yet many people also will investigate their spiritual curiosities and learn that magical people are predominantly devoutly spiritual and religious, and seek to do good for mankind. They will also inevitably realize that the magic shown in their favorite horror films is fictitious at its very core, however inspired by actual historical beliefs they may be. These movies act as a spotlight which directs attention toward the other worlds and planes of being, and when people fear, they often question. And that is all for good.

    This is a part of my larger series on Magic in the Movies, another such article in the series will appear in Witch Way Magazine this October.

 

by Austin Shippey

The Chaos of the Wilderness, The Dark Horned God: A Rite

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This rite is meant to trigger a mystical understanding deep within the primal side of the human mind. It is a meditation on the Horned God, for those who believe in him, and those who do not. It is a powerful rite that works not because of steps or symbols, but because of our deepest human instincts. 

The central message is to face the primal nature of our past as humans, and all the fear, adrenaline, and impulses that come with it. I was recently confronted by the movie "The Ritual" on Netflix, which features a group of men being stalked by a vicious horned creature in the forest. Comparing this creature to the Horned God of the Witches allowed me to ponder my experience of the Horned God in all of his aspects, the Wise Comforter and Consoler, and the Dread Lord of the Shadows. Such visions are a must for those pondering the mysteries of life.

You will need to find a dense forest. I would suggest a public park or a small bit of property where the trees can conceal your view of the regular world, but where you can be sure you won't get lost. I once went out to a small reserved piece of wilderness to collect wood for a wand, and although you could walk from one end to the other in about fifteen minutes, the dense trees and vines shielded my view of the outside world. I felt as if at any moment I could be turned around and lose my sense of direction, or stumble upon some natural beast or insect that would turn the peaceful situation very suddenly into a dangerous one. In this situation, the primal brain can quickly take over, and we can time travel to the ages where our ancestors hunted in the wild forests of long ago. 

When you've found your forest, be sure to prepare any necessary items and have them on hand. Bring a small offering for the Horned God in your pocket. It could be grains of pure resin incense, food, drink, a trinket of fine material, something meaningful to you, etc. Be sure to be safe and prepared for what may await you. Not only are there animals in the woods, but people, insects, obstacles, cliffs, poisonous plants, and thorns. The forest is a place where we no longer have the control over our environment that we're used to. 

At sunset, when the sky is mixed between daylight and darkness, speak this incantation at the edge of the forest:

“At the hour in between,

Let me walk beyond the threshold,

To see what to others remains unseen,

To hear of the mysteries yet untold."

Step into the forest. The entire time you are within the trees you should be focusing on every detail around you. Hear every twig snap, hear every insect and bird flutter and sing, hear the wind in the trees, smell the soil and foliage. Watch the shadows ripple, distort, and grow. Watch the forest become engulfed in the night. Feel your feet against the ground, its firmness or solidity. Pay attention to everything that you touch. 

Begin walking the path, concentrating on breathing meditatively, and observe your surroundings. There is one perfect branch in this forest that you will use as a wand for the ritual, but only one: you must find the stick that was born for the completion of this rite. It will not be found easily, but when you do find it you will know

Search carefully. As the sun sets and the shadows overtake the forest it may become harder to see. It is okay to use a flashlight, but a gas lantern would be preferable. Better yet, go out on a bright, clear full moon. 

Soon you will find the wand. When you do, point it up toward the sky and speak this invocation:

“Toward the earth thy sharp horns point,

Darkened soil, shadowed oak,

With a kiss your power anoints,

Then Earthly presence fades like smoke.

 

Dreaded Lord of dark and fear,

Of gnarled thorns and pooling mud,

Of trees which block out sound to hear,

Of frightened quickening of blood.

 

God of survival scared and dire, 

Of unknown strength and courage bold,

And dwindling embers of the fire,

God of the Ages, unknowably old,

 

Hidden flame which burns below,

Never ending yet unseen,

You have comforted the many,

All who will die, who ever have been.

 

Teach me of that hidden fire,

That let my elders see the way,

And may I grow old and never tire,

And survive the night to see the day."

 

Hold the wand out, close your eyes firmly, and begin to spin slowly, as if choosing a place at random. Make approximately twenty rotations, lose yourself in chance. 

Stop suddenly. Plunge the wand into the ground. The invocation is complete. Keep your eyes close and meditate while listening to the sounds of the forest.

Leave any offerings you have brought with you at the base of the wand. 

Turn back on your path, and leave the forest, walking slowly and consciously. 

Go home and enjoy a nice bath and a cup of tea, or whatever makes you feel comfortable. 

Thus ends the rite.

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by Austin Shippey

The Alexandrian Rose Ankh

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 Life, Magic, Mystery. Three words which have evaded full understanding since the dawn of time. In the mists of that dawning we know that humankind had looked up at the vastness of space, and in the twinkling stars saw stories of great monsters and terrible Gods. Snakes, insects, and thunderstorms became omens; the voices of spirits booming through the landscape or slithering through the dirt.  Circles and slashes were arranged and each one communicated an ephemeral thought from one human mind to another. Through symbols, we know—even if we cannot say.

     It is an esoteric art to craft a perfect symbol from visions, feelings, dreams, or thoughts. The depiction of a simple image can take decades for an artist to complete—yet other times the opposite is true. Sometimes a symbol can bloom into life as if it had been eagerly waiting to appear before physical eyes. Such is the case of the rose blooming from seed, the lily blossoming in sunlight, and the ankh being etched into stone over 3,000 years ago in Egypt. The staying power of these symbols are evidence of their universal truth. Such is also the case with a simple little pendant consisting of an ankh, a rose, and the tiny, hidden leaves of a lily conceived and created for a religious tradition of Witchcraft in the 1970s. 

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     In “The Alexandrian Rose Ankh” the co-founder of the Alexandrian Tradition, Maxine Sanders, writes:

“Mr. George Alexander was an artist who specialised in the different. He wanted to be a maker of magical weapons, swords, athames and anything made of metal. George wanted to create a symbol of our craft that would be recognisable to those Initiated, and to seekers with a curious nature. To begin, we had to find what the Craft meant to us. Life was the first word, Magic the second and Mystery the third, all we had to do was create the symbol for all three.”

     It is a difficult task to create an all-encompassing symbol for a religious group; how does one calculate the adoption of the Cross, the Om, the Star and Crescent, or the Pentagram, and replicate their impact on the spirit of the believer? If one tries too hard to invoke emotion the symbol can become contrived, if one succeeds in invoking emotion they also risk the symbol becoming outdated, nostalgic, eventually irrelevant. Maxine continues:

“The Ankh is the symbol of life, the rose and the lily, the magician. Only the tips of the lily’s leaves, slightly visible, the mystery. Of course, there are a myriad of symbolisms within the Alexandrian Rose Ankh. The five petals of the rose, the elements, etc.”

     So the Rose Ankh was created. When those first witches hung the newly crafted silver ankhs with cherry-red enamel rose petals around their necks, the connection that remains with us manifested. Thus was born a powerful occult symbol which could be utilized privately by witches of the Alexandrian Tradition, and also worn proudly to be seen by curious outsiders who may inquire about the strange looped cross with a flower in the center. 

     Roses and Lilies have long been associated with the Magician. The five-petaled rose equates to the pentagram, the six-petaled lily represents the hexagram; occult concepts hidden in natural plants. In the Tarot The Magician is surrounded by lilies and roses as he points his wand toward the heavens. The rose has long been a symbol for secrecy, such is told in an ancient Greek tale when Eros gives a rose to Harpocrates as a sign to keep the indiscretions of the Gods secret. Later Roman banquet rooms had roses painted on the ceilings to remind guests to keep things said under the influence of wine secret (a perfect witchcraft analogy). Christian confessionals have been carved with five-petaled roses to indicate confession’s private nature. In the Rose Ankh the leaves of the lily are hidden behind the rose, indicating the aspect of Mystery. The two symbols of Magic, the rose and the lily, are divided into seen and unseen—as is the magic that Alexandrians practice.  The ankh, being the ancient Egyptian symbol of life, is carried in depictions of nearly every deity in the ancient Egyptian pantheon. These symbols are profound and potent. 

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     Due to the passion and finesse of the hands of talented Priesthood, decades ago and currently, the Rose Ankh has become the symbol for us Alexandrians to represent our religion to ourselves and the world. High Priest Brian Cain has worked to produce a new line of Rose Ankhs, of these Maxine Sanders says, “Never before has a Rose Ankh had the intensity or purity of vibration of the originals, until today." They are sold and gifted only to those who are initiated; outsiders cannot purchase them… and why would they want to? It is a symbol of our brotherhood, a statement that we are proud of our first independent roots in the household temples of 60s and 70s England, and of our breaking away into a magical world of our own where our highest ideals could be pursued and encouraged. 

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     To many Alexandrians the Rose Ankh is a talisman which can be used to meditate upon the highest Mysteries of our existence and learned from over the course of one’s spiritual study and dedication. It is a password to realms unknown and beings unspoken of. It is a symbol of devotion, clutched for protection during fear or jangling and swinging in the ecstatic dance of the witches’ rituals. The Rose Ankh is a symbol of the Alexandrian spirit of freedom, liberation, expression, and reveling in the expansive beauty of the cosmos. Who knew all of that could be contained in a little silver or gold pendant depicting an ankh with a little flower in the center. 

     My rose ankh is a bit battered. I expect it will continue to receive more dents, scuffs, and scratches as the years pass. I have seen others with tarnish encircling the petals of the rose, some on white, glistening chains and others on blackened, aged chains from decades of wear. I have known of a glistening ruby and diamond encrusted ankh carefully stored in its original box of out fear of losing the precious item. I have seen ankhs being blessed and placed over the necks of proud, new initiates who moments before had just stepped foot inside their first Alexandrian circle… I was one of them. 

by Austin Shippey

When "Tradytionael Wytcch" Role-Playing Goes Too Far

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     I have been aware, since the beginning of my journey in witchcraft, that there have always been people who like to make-believe that they are Dark, Spooky, Ancient Witches. Fueled by popular books and horror movies, this niche of people brag loudly: “I'm not afraid of death and darkness,” “I'm not afraid to make blood sacrifices,” and “I'm not afraid of cemeteries and bones.” As I roll my eyes, I also assume that they aren't afraid of decorating their homes with black candles. But alongside the more amusing of these role-players exists a number of people who take their hobby further into a realm I'm both annoyed and disturbed by. Countless times during the modern witchcraft revival there have emerged thrill-seekers and rebels who, typically accompanying acts of childlike defiance, eventually commit crimes and abuses time and time again, like a child who kills animals when young and grows to abuse humans in adulthood. This phenomenon is worrying, yet seemingly ever-present.

     There has been a recent controversy that has sparked me to type these words. When confusion arose from the general public, some experienced Priesthood in one of the oldest and most mature lines of modern Witchcraft said simply, “No, witches do not sacrifice animals.” I'm sure those asking the question were relived by this response which surely represents the majority opinion, but a light will always lure moths. In nearly every forum where a witch stated animal sacrifice has no part in witchcraft, there were half a dozen “Traditional Witches” demanding acceptance for their niche hobby. Those who capture and kill crows, surround them with spooky, store-bought candles, and snap pictures for Instagram passionately disagreed and demanded the statement be revoked. Those who once bought a tiny mouse from PetCo and then chopped its head off as a Grand Sacryfice to the Hornyd One bumbled their way across the keyboard in defiance. To my surprise one Praktytioner of the Arkane Arts even captured wasps and squashed them to make her magyck work. What insidiously grew from my annoyed amusement was a startled concern: the same people I assumed were harmless (except to small helpless animals) began to threaten my close friends and I over messages and posts. As the flames grew higher phone calls were directed to my friends' house threatening violence. The same people who were being defended as “just good people who commit earnest sacrifice, as people have always done in the past” showed their true colors simply because people dared to disagree. 

     A retrospectively amusing case of this same type of Wytcch was “The Highgate Vampire,” who was eventually arrested in the 1970s for vandalizing and desecrating Highgate cemetery and mailing threats and spells to people. He began his career as a Dark and Spooky Wytch with hijinks and petty crimes galore, which mostly consisted of distracting the police from more important work. What eventually happened to fulfill this man's yearning for the feeling that he was a True Witch was the destruction of sacred property and the instilling of fear in many innocent people. (He is now an earnest spiritual person and has left his crimes in the past.) In comparison to similar figures in the past, it is obvious that these people need to put down the dagger, pick up the phone, and make a call to a good psychologist's office.

      Many of my elders in witchcraft have written about the same sub-genre of witch from their personal experiences. They describe people so desperately attempting to possess some form of power over their lives and the lives of those around them that they inevitably turn to heinous and evil crimes. Animal abuse, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and even kidnapping soon followed these taboo-pushing “rebels.” Many people began as “witchcraft outsiders” who claimed to be genuine spiritual people and then very quickly began to lure, manipulate, and abuse those who joined them in their rites. I am not disturbed by the fact that there are people who kill animals; people have always killed animals for food, survival, or genuinely old religious traditions in reverent and community-based manners. What really disturbs me are the demands made by these modern wytcches seeking to bolster a hobby that is done for thrill or some form of questionable spiritual reassurance... a hobby which the majority of people are turned-off and concerned by... and the fact that the misbehavior and threats surrounding this hobby are highly reminiscent of what many abusers in the occult world have done in the past.

     One of the main grabs these rodent-squashers make is that “Witches all over the world have always sacrificed animals.” I really wish it was obvious enough why “Because someone in the past did it” is an entirely fallacious excuse for present behavior, but sadly I will have to make it more clear for those in the back. 

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     I am talking about witchcraft, not magic, and as such these issues of sacrifice become much more pronounced, especially when popular movies and TV shows are still inspired by the witchcraft lore of Early Modern Europe. It's quite obvious that witches in the past are said to have sacrificed not only animals, but humans and infants. Around a blazing fire in a dark forest wail haggard old women, and beneath their shouting cries a terrified baby moments before its murder. A witch is seen holding a knife to the flesh of a newborn, moments later pummeling the corpse to a pulp, and then smearing the gory remains on her body. These folkloric sacrifices were terrifying to people hundreds of years ago, and still are when portrayed in film. As no stranger to horror stories and cinema, let alone the folktales of fictional witches of the past, I have no objection to these portrayals. They are inspired by historical folklore and portray fascinating archetypes of the ante-mother, the fear of infertility, women's sexual power, and the anxieties of parents in the protection of their offspring. These are primal ideas which must be explored, and fine by me if they are explored through the Witch. But when Tradytionael Wytcches make a lifestyle out of looking back at old folklores and pretending that they are true portrayals of an ancient witchcraft, I am worried. Not worried that they will sacrifice babies, but that they will eventually do anything to satisfy their desire for something “real” in their life.

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     On the bookshelf of many a Traedytionael Wyytch can be found stories from the times of the witch persecutions, and even modern books by people pretending to be a part of that historic folklore. These older books (in rare instances) call for the sacrifice of frogs, birds, goats, dogs, and black cats. The idea is, spurred by reductive, white anthropologists in the 20th century, that all folk magic is equal to witchcraft (a proposition that is still denounced by many a historian) and thus any old spell that was recorded is somehow witchcraft. A well-known spell to bring rain required a black cat and the sea. The witch would take the cat, toss it out into the sea, and when the cat swam back, would repeat the process over and over again until, stricken by exhaustion and cold, the cat would give up and drown. An animal sacrifice for a magical outcome. Yet this practice, especially because of its prolonged cruelty toward the animal, would get anyone fined, arrested, and jailed today. These are the types of outdated practices Tradytional Wytches are defending simply because they are old. Similar sacrifices are made by modern Dark Scary True Wytches, frequently utilizing helpless small animals, and are often photographed afterwards, overlaid with spooky filters, and the trophy posted online. The bones of the slaughtered animal are often then amassed and laid out on altars, which are further photographed, filtered, and posted online. There is an unpleasant pathology here that stems partially from the unwarranted glamorization of past, and eventually extends to actual physical abuse and/or bloodshed by those who claim to be living the life of a witch. This is not simply hunting or farming, this is disturbing. The fact that it is being normalized and made on-trend by "Traditional Witches" on the internet is disgraceful and disillusions me greatly as to the creative merit of non-lineaged, non-traditional witchcraft branches (however “Traditional” they nevertheless claim to be).

     The sensational animal killing by troubled and disturbed teenagers in the 90s is now being actively justified by people claiming to be witches... because they read it in a book. What kind of behavior is subsequently accepted when people justify violent acts because they feel it is “just spiritually right?” What kind of sacrifice is permitted in the name of “Old Fashioned Witchcraft” when customs are built from the ground up out of antiquated folklore, and then where are the lines drawn? I think it goes without saying that whoever aligns themselves to these silly, abusive, and pathological practices are not on my side and do not have my support. Animal sacrifice is not a “traditional” aspect of witchcraft, no matter how many people make-believe it is.

     These types of dedicated role-players are jokes, until they are not. I don't intend to embrace these people as Priesthood or Witches for the same reason I don't embrace the Westboro Baptist Church as Christian. When you invent your own spirituality and the invention becomes distasteful to hundreds or more people, don't be surprised when you aren't invited to the party, and when your demands for acceptance are not met. Unfortunately for all of us, these people tend not to be good people. Fortunately for me and the rest of Witchcraft, they are also not real Witches.

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by Austin Shippey

Lady Sheba: A Controversial Icon of American Witchcraft

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Lady Sheba was an American Witchcraft celebrity for a moment in the 1970s. Her books still sell well today and are an alluring glimpse at British Traditional style Witchcraft wrapped in a vintage, charismatic package that makes one imagine a cheerful woman burning magical herbs in a censer, mixing flying ointment out of hand cream, lovingly placing an Avon Goddess figurine on her personal altar, and carrying a candle into the backyard under the full moon. For that brief moment in the 70s she helped register Wicca as a genuine religion and ran covens herself, forming her own tradition of witchcraft based on older traditions.

    I've read simple paragraphs in memory of this memorialized witch from her family recalling how she had an herbal cure for just about anything, that she was seen as strange by some yet was loved by many others. Yet like many other witchcraft elders Sheba and her work were not without flaws. For as charming as her books can be they are rife with material stolen from writers like Doreen Valiente, and for these writings the authors received not a dime or credit, not even in revised centennial editions of her books. Simply put, Carl Weschcke of Llewellyn publications, along with Lady Sheba, made the conscious decision to publish work which was not theirs to publish and which they had no involvement in bringing about. We don't know exactly how they received some of these works, but there are a couple plausible theories—what we know is that Lady Sheba obtained material from various sources and published them without permission. Personal poetry and simple rituals treasured by many and held as true religious mementos are now, because of them, sold in bookshops to be either praised, gawked at, criticized, or repeated by untrained hands who don't have the full picture. 

     In publishing her books Lady Sheba betrayed the trust of all of her elders and so many who worked so hard to hold those beautiful words and rituals to the standards they deserve: lovingly passing them down and not selling them for $10 on a bookshelf. In making a name for herself and Llewellyn Publications they betrayed a magical bond on a very human level, let alone one of potent magic. Was this new strategy for an occult tradition one of American Freedom, or of American Consumerism? Did it remedy the limitations of a small and personal initiatory cult, or nurture and fertilize a newer mindset of entitlement and a fast-food, I-want-it-now approach to Witchcraft? As evidenced by the mass approach to witchcraft common today, I unfortunately have to side with the latter. 

     Yet always in rebellion of what would seem like harsh blows to the staunch witchcraft traditions, leaked “Books of Shadows” have never hurt the traditions but only seem to heighten the glory of their oral teachings and strengthen the sacredness of the bond between teacher and student. Furthermore, witches being occultists and “The Book” being “of the Shadows,” do you really think simple steps and poems is all there is to it? The Book of Shadows is a tiny stump atop a vast sprawling city of hidden, ancient roots of Craft. The more how-to books that are published the stronger it becomes, not the other way around: the treasuring of non-published material strengthens the hidden roots of the tree while the uninitiated view a small stump and say, “Is that all?”

    Lady Sheba's books, some first edition, some centennial, sit on my shelf. When I shuffle through the pages and smell that old book smell and see the smiling woman printed in black and white along with her simple magical instruments, I know that Jessie Wicker Bell, Lady Sheba, was a truly magical woman. I only wish she would've used her moment and her magic more wisely and followed the advice of the words she so vehemently published.

by Austin Shippey

Offerings for a Forest Spirit

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This winter, during a beautiful trip to a mountaintop cabin, I discovered a face carved into a tree, looking toward the house. I sensed power and protection in this face, and knew that many people had stumbled upon it before, and many more would in the future. As a way to give thanks to this figure I adorned it with things I collected from the surrounding forest, and let a candle burn for it. 

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by Austin Shippey

Who Were the Cunning Folk?

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A large reference for this article has been Owen Davies' book “Popular Magic: Cunning-Folk in English History," one of the most concise and well-written histories on the cunning folk. 

The cunning folk were healers, diviners, and practitioners of Christian folk magic in Europe from at least the 15th to the early 20th century. For over five-hundred years the cunning folk worked to provide magical services to local populations and sought out obscure knowledge through books and experimentation. They worked hard at their jobs, were entrepreneurial, and on occasion travelled many miles outside of their town to stay with someone in need of magical aid, healing, or simply a reassuring person to talk to. The cunning folk of historic Europe are an unshakeable influence on and early precursor to all of magical spirituality today.

   “Cunning Folk” is a term used by historians to describe both male and female professional practitioners of magic in Europe. These cunning people were physicians, healers, psychics, magicians, and providers of magical services to their clients. The cunning folk were the wise women and men. In the cunning folk’s historic society eclectic knowledge and wisdom was key; the cunning folk were seen by the population as distinct in society for their knowledge acquired from either a supernatural source, a hereditary ability, or from their literacy, as many people back then couldn’t read or write. They were central to the experience of the magical world for the majority of people; and almost everyone knew at least one cunning man or woman. 

   When you think of magic in Europe, you are most likely to think of witches and their Sabbath in the woods at night. Although cunning folk were referred to in rare instances as “White Witches”, in Early Modern Europe the cunning folk were seen by the majority of the population as very distinct from witches. Cunning folk tended to work alone, using Christian names of God in their magic, reading from Christian grimoires, and utilizing Biblical verses. To them magic was a helpful tool which accompanied their Christian religious beliefs rather than composing them. Many today attempt to mystify or glamorize the cunning folk as “the true historic witches." Outside of fantasy the cunning folk were ordinary, if only a bit kooky, people who could read and developed an interest in magic. They sent for mail order books, studied up the most popular of them, in some cases even just bought the books to look impressive on the shelf. Witchcraft was persecuted because it was seen as heretical and diabolic, where cunning folk were safe from persecutions. In fact, the same grimoires used by the cunning folk were brought into circulation largely because so many Catholic clergymen studied and practiced with them. 

   Cunning-craft differed from witchcraft and witches in the religious sense as well, because witches were seen as believing in a mix of devil worship and paganism, as flying to their Sabbath with the goddess Diana and meeting with the Devil, and the witches' rituals were seen as heretical and often criminal. Where the cunning man worked alone in his home, witches travelled to a Sabbath to meet with a coven. They were seen as anathema to the Christian God, whether this meant paganism or diabolism. The classical Grimoires were not seen as the domain of the witches as reading and writing was seen as a pure, Godly act mastered only by nobility or clergy. The cunning folk, not commonly charged with heresy, were for the most part safe from the witch persecutions, because even if the church didn’t always approve of their magical practices they were still not seen as diabolic or heretical and were therefore not under the church’s authority.

   The cunning folk’s magical practice was generally self-taught and learned from grimoires and magical texts which were purchased by mail-order to be used by those who had the advantage of being able to read. They practiced low magic otherwise called folk magic. Magical practice was not a means to gain enlightenment, but to solve everyday problems. 

   The cunning folk were some of the first professional psychics in history. They would often run their businesses out of their homes. They would set up a lobby at the front and then a parlor room in the back. Clients of the cunning folk back then wanted to know about practical things. Their farm animals, their families, their neighbors, their love life, etcetera. 

   Another thing people often went to a cunning person for was to detect a thief. They could receive better results this way than through any of the legal systems. For this problem the cunning folk had many ways to divine the identity of the thief. One of these methods was scrying in a bowl of water, a black mirror, or even urine. The cunning person would have the client pee into a container and if bubbles formed in a certain way on the glass it could indicate the curser’s identity.

   If someone had reason to believe they had a curse placed upon them, and they approached a cunning person for help, there were three ways the cunning person could go about the situation. The first was to go to the source of the harmful magic and tackle the witch physically or through the courts. The second was for the cunning person to break the spell at a distance via magical rituals and spells. The third was by using a mix of charms or herbs to cleanse the victim’s body of the negative attached energy. Sometimes a combination of all three of these would be used until the ailment disappeared.

   One way to tackle the witch was by “scratching” where a client was told to find the person they believed to be the witch, scratch them with their fingernails, and if blood came they would be healed of the curse’s magic. If no blood came, either the person wasn’t the witch or they wouldn’t be cured of the curse. This of course caused a lot of arguments between the scratcher and the scratchee.

   To tackle the witch through magic often a witch bottle was utilized. They would take wine, hair, nails of the client, horseshoe nails, thorns, and pins. They would put the ingredients into a vessel which symbolized “the witches’ bladder." The witch bottle was then either put into the fire, boiled in water, or buried. It was supposed to cause the witch excruciating pain while it was being heated in order to get them to stop casting harmful spells. 

   If a farm animal died under mysterious circumstances, the cunning folk would suggest the client remove the dead animal’s heart, stick it with pins, roast it, or hang it inside of the chimney. This was supposed to “burn the curse away."

   All of these interesting methods were utilized, but the most common cure for a curse was a written charm or an herbal remedy. The herbs used were kept secret by the cunning folk and rarely written about, but we can assume they used the same herbs as the popular mystical physicians of the time. In the subject of herbal medicine and the mystical properties of herbs Nicholas Culpeper’s book “The English Physician and Herbal” was very influential from the 1800s and onward. In it he writes, “bay is the best herb, it resisteth witchcraft very potently, as also all the evils old Satan can do to the body of man.” The cunning folk would write on paper a simple charm or prepare a small bag with certain herbs to be worn around the neck. I especially like to use little charms like this for simple magical assistance.

   All of medicine back then was based on the four humors of the body which are black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. This cosmology got some things right, but medicine was still in its early days. For the beginning part of the early modern era the cunning folk’s medicine was often as good or better than what an actual doctor could prescribe. Compared to orthodox doctors, many cunning folk also showed exceptional customer care. They often travelled for clients, made night calls, and offered to stay days at a time if need be. One cunning man travelled twelve miles by horse to see an elderly man, sat up with him all night, and went to morning prayer with him the next day. A cunning man called Mr. Teare said about his customer care, “The crab who hides away in his hole is never fat."

   To further amaze their customers and build their reputation many cunning folk dressed in eccentric clothing and decorated their showrooms to look magical and exotic. (Some also dressed in regular clothes.) One cunning woman had dried herbs hung from her ceiling and a stuffed dried lizard on a table. During consultations she wore a conical hat and a shawl scrawled with magical signs and symbols.

   Folk magic of the cunning folk variety didn’t end in Europe; Germans and English settlers transported practical magic and herbal remedies to America later on, and these practices soon expressed their own unique styles. Among some of the American cousins of the cunning folk’s practices are pow-wow, granny-magic, and even hoodoo contains some unmistakeable European elements. 

  At the end of this brief entry on folk magic and history, we can take a look at spiritual businesses today-- psychics, mediums, healers, shamans, and professional spellcasters-- and we can see many commonalities with the cunning folk. In the past people needed clarity and confirmation in their life that they received from those with a special gift or spiritual knowledge, and it is the same today. It is the same just as it has been throughout human history. Whether a wise-woman, a shaman, or a medicine-man, people have always sought out those with a mystical insight to part the veil between the known and the unknown. 

   It is my belief that humanity has truly never stopped believing in the beneficial magic of nature and the mind, but that the face of that magic only shifts gradually with the passage of time. By learning about the spirituality of the past, we can more fully understand the spirituality of the present. 

by Austin Shippey

Exploring a Remote Forest on Mount Hood in Oregon

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 Photos by @grdnchn on Instagram

Photos by @grdnchn on Instagram

This winter has been a memorable one which I will always cherish. I am closer to my loved ones than I have been during the past several years. My relationships and friendships are growing stronger. I am feeling confident and happier than I have in the past. And I am looking forward to a new year of promise, love, and celebration. I wish you all many blessings as well.

-Austin

Photos by @grdnchn on Instagram

by Austin Shippey

Scrubbing the Temple Floors of Wicca

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Imagine an atheist reading one “Catholicism How-To” book, then going into every avenue of communication and speaking to people claiming to be able to teach Catholicism. This hypothetical, exuberant “Catholicism For Dummies” reader is frequently incorrect; they have never attended a Mass, they have not been baptized or raised in the Church, they have not received training in service, nor do they believe in God. Regardless, they speak with confidence and joy, describing the ins and outs of how they view Catholicism. Let's take the hypothetical idea a step further: let's say an actual Catholic priest notices their presence and corrects them, politely asserting that they are misguided. The How-To reader gets offended and says, “How dare you tell me my perspective is wrong?” So the knowledgeable, properly trained priest, who has spent decades in study and discipline, is silenced, and the beginner How-To Manual reader is allowed to speak as loudly as they want. People don't mind because they are polite and cheerful in their religious views. Their motto is “Catholicism is something personal, and so is our connection to God, however we may view him.” The priest has his work to do, so he goes his own way and devotes his time to the church, his true job anyway.

     Now let's say a majority of new Catholics begin to do this. Let's say eventually that public representation for Catholicism is a majority of newcomers. Their message seems welcoming to fellow newcomers who before had been intimidated by the complex and difficult rituals of the Catholic church. Soon their voice becomes the one up-and-coming Catholics consistently listen to. After a while, the whole philosophy within the discourse and discussion of the Catholic faith is shifted into one built by people who have no unifying methodology or training in the religion, who are self-taught, who demand no quality control. Catholics are now said to be able to be Christians, atheists, denounce Christ yet still worship God, make Mary the Goddess of Catholicism, get rid of the Mass if they don't feel drawn to it, and on and on until each feels that their spiritual experience of Catholicism is completely comfortable for them, built according to their whims and preferences. Now, truly... does this sound like Catholicism? Is this still Catholicism?



When you envision this situation you can see the public face of Wicca which predominates in most spiritual communities, on most social networks and forums, and the most powerful spiritual publishing companies. For the past thirty years Wicca has largely been spoken for publicly by people who simply don't know what they are talking about, and who silence people who actually do. Silencing those who speak too “dogmatically” is often permitted under the guise of political correctness or “positive, much-needed reformation” in the “old-fashioned, outdated form” of the religion. In the present, simply giving a traditionalist viewpoint on popular forums and public social networks will get you silenced and labeled a dogmatist or a bigot. 

     As a member of the traditionalist community I must honestly look at where this climate has led us. What I see overwhelmingly is a discordant, misinformed, incommunicative bunch of amateur “Wiccans” holding a microphone that they, frankly, stole from the trained and initiated priests of a complex and meaningful religion they never would've wanted to be a part of in the first place. Behind these voices there is little experience, where their traditionalist counterparts hold literally lifetimes of experience in an expansive area of occult sciences and consciously-molded magical practices

     It has been a long journey for Wicca to emerge into the spotlight of world religions, and many peaks and valleys have formed in that timeline. At one point many initiates of the religion were focused on high standards, occult discipline, and proper training; at another proper training was practically taboo while self-training was hailed as “independent” and more “free.” 

     Much of the properly initiated priesthood are growing increasingly tired of Neo-Wicca, including, unabashedly, myself. We are tired of dabbling Pagans who haven't a drop of spirituality in their politic-fueled religions. We are tired of people who don't practice what they speak about and who never tried to understand what they criticize. We are tired of pretenders and people wanting to reap the benefits of the title of a legitimate religion without doing any of the work its actual members put into it over the course of decades. We are also tired of having to support these aforementioned “Wiccans” and Pagans who oppose almost everything we stand for: the upward development of the soul, the love of the Gods, the support and encouragement of our brothers and sisters of the Art, and the eventual attainment of action based on true will.

     What is already happening in response, and what will continue to happen, is the steady cleanup act. Like devoted monks scrubbing the worn floors of the temple, a restoration will take place: a polishing off of the tarnish to restore the glory of a religion that was almost hijacked.

     British Traditional Witchcraft, also called Wicca, is an initiatory mystery religion which I am honored to be a part of. If the temple floors need scrubbing, I will gladly scrub away. As Alex Sanders said, “The Wicca is an act of love," as Aristotle said, “To love excellence is truly to love the gods."

by Austin Shippey

Ancient Pages

In ancient days, upon stone tablets and on cave walls, the knowledge of magic was recorded in the hope that these ancient secrets would not be lost. Yet in time empires fell, libraries burnt to the ground, and men destroyed books and tablets to erase their existence from history; yet through it all survived fragments of the ancient knowledge. The old grimoires purport to give the reader power over powerful spirits, the ability to gain love and find hidden treasure, even the ability to subdue the demonic legions themselves, armed with the power of God. 

In delving into the ancient pages of the grimoires we will learn of the methods magicians have used since time immemorial to summon angels, demons, and even the devil himself. We will learn of dark diabolic magic and necromancy. We will learn of Angelic magic and the mysterious Enochian language. We will learn of the legendary Keys of Solomon, and even delve into the more modern “American grimoires.” We will learn of the magical wands and weapons employed by the historic magicians. We will also learn of the methods of magical self defense to be used in protection against the darker forces of the universe. At the end of the class we will create and consecrate pentacles from the Key of Solomon to use in obtaining many types of magical desires. 

These ancient books are a link to a timeless and infinitely powerful magic, knowable to those brave enough to delve into the ancient pages and uncover the secrets of the grimoires. 

HexFest.com

by Austin Shippey

Trip to the magical city of New Orleans

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Brian Cain and Christian Day

 Sen Elias of Crescent City Conjure

Sen Elias of Crescent City Conjure

 At Marie Laveau's (possible) grave

At Marie Laveau's (possible) grave

My Instagram photos from my trip to New Orleans! I saw voodoo relics and historical sites, met witches, conjurers, and voodoo priests, learned about Marie Laveau and the birth of jazz, explored Catholic churches, and experienced magic. Such a spiritual city with kind people all around. I had a great time and made some amazing friends.

by Austin Shippey

Autumn

New season, new Mysteries. Although witchcraft is a fertility religion, there are times where we must delve into the mysteries of death and rebirth. The cold seasons and the greater sabbats of Halloween and Candlemas are a time when the leaves on the trees die, snow begins to fall, and the world becomes a little darker. This is a time where earth’s mortality shows, but this mortality is what keeps the cycles of life going. It is an old saying that if witches stopped doing their seasonal rituals, the sun and moon would no longer rise and the world would stop. 

“Queen of the Moon, Queen of the Stars, Queen of the Horns, Queen of the Forests, Queen of the Earth, bring to us the Child of Promise!

For it is the Great Mother who gives birth to him; it is the Lord of Life who is born again. Darkness and tears are set aside, when the Sun comes up again.

Golden Sun of the hill and mountain, illumine the world, illumine the seas, illumine the rivers, illumine us all!

Grief be laid and joy be raised, blessed be the Great Mother!

Without beginning, without end, everlasting to eternity.”

by Austin Shippey

To Summon The Spirits

Fast and pray for at least the day of the ritual.

Before the ritual, take a bath and dress in robe & pentacle of protection.

    Adoration at the bath: Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, O Lord! and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    Purity in thought before entering circle: O Lord all powerful, eternal God and father of all creatures, shed upon me the divine influence of thy mercy, for I am thy creature. I beseech thee to defend me from mine enemies, and to confirm in me true and steadfast faith.

Exorcise candles:

    I exorcise thee, O creature of wax, by those who alone hath created all things by their word, and by the virtue of all that is holy truth, that that thou cast out from thee every phantasm, perversion, and deceit of the enemy, and may the virtue and power of the Gods enter into thee, so that thou mayest give us light, and chase far from us all fear or terror.

    When thou shalt wish to kindle the candles thou shalt say: I exorcise thee, O creature of fire, in the name of the powerful God and the Gentle Goddess, by their ineffable names which are CERNUNNOS and ARADIA, that thou mayest enlighten the heart of all spirits within this circle, so that they may appear before us and communicate without fraud, and deceit, through him and her who hath created all things through love and truth.

Cast/trace triangle and circle with magical weapon.

Recite banishing prayer, cleanse circle with water and incense.

    When we enter herein, with all humility, let God and Goddess, the mighty ones, enter into this place, by the entrance of an eternal happiness, of a divine prosperity, of a perfect joy, of an abundant charity, and of an eternal salutation. Let all the demons fly from this circle, especially those who are opposed unto this work, and let the angels of peace assist and protect this place and persons within, from which let all discord and strife fly and depart. Magnify and extend upon us, O holy Lord and Lady, thy most holy names, and bless our conversation and assembly. Sanctify, O God and Goddess, our humble entry herein, thou blessed and holy ones of the eternal ages! AMEN.

Invoke watchtowers and gods to guard and protect the circle.

At the altar in center prepare the pentacle on parchment then sprinkle and cense it.

Place the pentacle into the triangle on the outside of the circle.

Call out the invocation until the spirit manifests.

    Conjuration to call forth any of the spirits: I do invocate and conjure thee, O Spirit, (Name) and being with power armed from the SUPREME MAJESTY, I do strongly command thee! And being armed with power from the SUPREME MAJESTY, I do strongly command thee, by him who spake and it was done, and unto whom all creatures be obedient. Also I, being made after the image of the GODS, endued with power from GOD and GODDESS, do exorcise thee by that most mighty and powerful names of THE GODS, beautiful and strong, severe and merciful, powerful and compassionate; O thou Spirit (Name). And I command thee by ABRACADABRA as I speak the word and my will be accomplished, and by all the names of the Gods. Also by the names ADONAI, EL, ELOHIM, ELOHI, EHEYEH, IAH, TETRAGRAMMATON, SHADDAI, LORD GOD MOST HIGH, ARADIA, KERNUNNOS, AND DIANA, I do exorcise thee and do powerfully command thee, O thou spirit (Name)! that thou dost forthwith appear unto me here before this circle in a fair and human shape, without any deformity or tortuosity. And by this ineffable name, TETRAGRAMMATON JEHOVAH, do I command thee, at the which being heard the elements are overthrown, the air is shaken, the sea runneth back, the fire is quenched, the earth trembleth, and all the hosts of the celestials, terrestrials, and infernals, do tremble together, and are troubled and confounded. Wherefore come thou, O Spirit (Name) forthwith, and without delay, from any or all parts of the world wherever thou mayest be, and make rational answers unto all things that I shall demand of thee!Come thou peaceably, visibly, and affably, now, and without delay, manifesting that which I shall desire. For thou art conjured by the name of the LIVING and TRUE GOD, THE ALL KNOWING AND ALL LOVING MOTHER GODDESS, wherefore fulfill thou my commands, and persist thou therein unto the end, and according unto mine interest, visibly and affably speaking unto me with a voice clear and intelligible without any ambiguity!

(Repeat this conjuration three times. If the spirit come not yet, say the second conjuration)

    Second Conjuration: I do invocate, conjure, and command thee, O thou spirit (Name), to appear and to show thyself visibly unto me before this circle in fair and comely shape, without any deformity or tortuosity; by the name and in the name TETRAGRAMMATON ELOHIM, which Adam heard and spake; and by the name of GOD, and by the name ZABAOTH, which Moses named and all the rivers were turned into blood; and by the name ELION, which Moses named, and there was great hail such as had not been since the beginning of the world; and by the name ADONAI, which Moses named, and there came up locusts, which appeared upon the whole land, and devoured all which the hail had left; and by the name ALPHA and OMEGA, which Daniel named, and destroyed Bel, and slew the Dragon; and by the name HAGIOS; and by the SEAL OF ADONI; and by these three secret names, AGLA, ON, TETRAGRAMMATON, do I adjure and constrain thee. And by these names, and by all the other names of the LIVING and TRUE GOD, the LORD ALMIGHTY, I do exorcise and command thee, O spirit (Name), even by Him who spake the word and it was done, and to the God and Goddess who hath created and sprung forth all the life of the earth, and to whom all creatures are obedient; and by the dreadful judgments of GOD; and by the uncertain Sea of Glass, which is before the DIVINE MAJESTY, mighty and powerful; by the four beasts before the throne, having eyes before and behind; by the fire round about the throne; by the holy angels of Heaven; and by the mighty wisdom of GOD; I do potently exorcise thee, that thou appearest here before this Circle, to fulfill my will in all things which shall seem good unto me. Wherefore thou shalt make faithful answers unto all my demands, O spirit (Name), and shalt perform all my desires so far as in thine office thou art capable hereof. Wherefore, come thou, visibly, peaceably, and affably, NOW! without delay, to manifest that which I desire, speaking with a clear and perfect voice, intelligibly, and to mine understanding!

(Repeat this conjuration three times. If the spirit doesn’t appear, give the license to depart. But surely the spirit WILL appear!)

Speak the Welcome unto the Spirit. 

    Welcome, O spirit (Name)! I say thou are welcome because I have called thee through the Gods who have created heaven and earth and all that is in them contained, and because also thou has obeyed the will of God and mine own will by appearing here now. By that same power by the which I have called thee forth I bind thee for a time that thou remain affably and visibly here before this circle and within this triangle, so long as I shall have occasion for thy presence, and not to depart without my liscnese until thou hast duly and faithfully performed my will without any falsity. (Then point your weapon at the triangle and say,) By the power of the Gods have I called thee! Give unto me a true answer!

    (Now state your desire and ask questions. Receive conversation and come to an agreement.)

 

 

 

 

When conversation is done give the spirit the License to Depart. 

O THOU Spirit (Name), because thou hast diligently answered unto my, demands, and hast been very ready and willing to come at my call, I do here license thee to depart unto thy proper place; without causing harm or danger unto man or beast. Depart, then, I say, and be thou very ready to come at my call, being duly exorcised and conjured by the sacred rites of magic. I charge thee to withdraw peaceably and quietly, and the peace of GOD and GODDESS be ever continued between thee and me! AMEN!

When the spirit has gone, say a prayer of thanks to the gods for their protection and aid.

Dismiss the circle, gods, and watchtowers.

Recite banishing prayer

Herein, with all humility, let thou powerful God and thou gentle Goddess enter into this space, by the entrance of an eternal happiness, of a divine prosperity, of a perfect joy, of an abundant charity, and of an eternal salutation. Let all demons fly from this place, especially those who are opposed unto this work, and let the Angels of Peace assist and protect this space, from which let discord and strife fly and depart. Magnify and extend upon us, O Lord our God, O Lady our Goddess our humble entry herein, Thou the Blessed and Holy One of the Eternal Ages. Amen.

by Austin Shippey

Practical Ointments

From Instagram @CunningCraft "Letting some natural mosquito repellent oil steep in the sun. I'm using lavender oil, rosemary, mint, and patchouli, all of which are natural mosquito repellents. For witches who are planning on working outdoors when the weather gets cold an oil like this serves a double purpose, it keeps the mosquito's away and also helps insulate the body from the cold. It's believed that during the witch persecutions of Europe that the witches smeared themselves with a black ointment to more easily sneak outdoors at night without being seen. This ointment is generally considered to have been mixed with soot to color it black. This may as well be the reason so many people described "the devil" as having black skin when they encountered him, most likely it was a human male witch who had been smeared with black ointment, possibly for the same purposes we use ointment today, and as camouflage. Gerald Gardner wrote in his original Book of Shadows: "To make anointing ointment use olive oil, mint leaves, marjoram, thyme, a patchouli leaves."

From Instagram @CunningCraft: "A closer look at the anti-mosquito ointment. All done. It's solid at room temperature but melts as soon as it touches the skin. Smells very nice."

With a few herbs or oils, some beeswax, coconut, or olive oil, you can create many effective salves and ointments. The uses, for witches, as written about above, are many. But this one is practical for everyone who loves the outdoors. Natural ingredients, insulation, and mosquito repellent.

A list of herbs mosquitos don't like: 

Citronella

Catnip

Marigold

Lavender

Peppermint

And there are others. These herbs listed above not only repel mosquitos, but fleas as well. 

 

by Austin Shippey