Thoughts, lessons, and theology from an eclectic witch from a varied background.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Spell Craft: Rituals

A simple axiom to remember when considering spell craft is that all spells are rituals but not all rituals are spells. Ritual is extremely important for spell craft because it helps us to reach the correct mental state to engage in this work. A ritual does not need to be extravagant. At it's most basic, a ritual is a repetitive action performed to accomplish a specific goal. My morning cup of coffee is a minor ritual that assists me in starting my day. With out it, I find it difficult to concentrate and fully wake up. Some of this is due to the lack of caffeine but mainly it is due to the disruption of my habit (which is built upon a collection of rituals).

Some people distinguish 'high' and 'low' magic by the degree of ritual required. 'High' magic is often described as extremely ritualistic in its orientation where as 'low' magic has very minimal ritual requirements. Modern witchcraft's 'high' ritual magic owes a great deal of its structure to the ceremonial magicians of the 19th century. The use of a ritual circle to 'contain' the magical energy did not become a commonly accepted practice until the Victorian revival and romanticism of the pagan practices of their ancestors.

Prior to this, such practices were restricted to ceremonial magicians and those who would attempt to engage in demonolatry . It is the conflation of demonolatry , ceremonial magic, and the practices that were known as 'low' magic later that were poured forth in the Malleus Maleficarum that laid the groundwork of what developed into what we recognize today as codified magical systems. Before the period commonly known as the "Burning Times," written record of magical practice was infrequent and predominantly limited to that which was preserved from antiquity.

With the rise of interest in the occult and pagan systems of the past, a rough ritual format became standardized. Some variant of this ritual format has been in practice in most of the modern pagan systems that are employed within Western society, with the exception of a few specific areas. Upon examination, this 'basic' ritual format can be found to resemble the ritual format of the Catholic mass. I do not believe this is a coincidental thing. Indeed, the Catholic mass is one of the oldest rituals surviving in Western society.

A ritual can be understood as something of a private (typically) drama that serves to recreate the universe in microcosm and allow the practitioner(s) to adjust their situation. The changes enacted in ritual creates an effect upon the universe at large by a process that is described in classical Western metaphysics by the axiom:

As above, so below. As below, so above.[1]
Most rituals can be broken down into a simple format. The ritual opens with a recognition of the necessity of the ritual. Some do this by way of a declaration of intent. Using my morning coffee example, my ritual begins by stating "I need some coffee." Then the practitioner uses the tools assembled to enact the steps of the ritual. Often, to make the ritual simpler, practitioners will gather their supplies before hand.

In the example that I present, I have already gathered my tools. I boil the water and put my instant coffee into my mug of choice. I then pour the water into my mug and mix the contents together with three counter clockwise turns. (Just because I feel like it and it's habit.) If I were charging my coffee to assist me in my writing, at the time of mixing the contents together, I would intone my charm, directing my spiritual energy down the spoon and into the beverage I am making.

My little ritual of making coffee complete, I would then clean up my work area and enjoy the results. Because, a hot cup of coffee in the morning is well worth enjoying, even if it is instant. The same process of recognizing the necessity of the ritual and stating objective can be found in various other places. Ritual magic is not the only place that uses this format. Indeed, if one were to conduct a science experiment, many of the steps are quite the same.
  1. Form a hypothesis
  2. Design an experiment to test hypothesis
  3. Observe experiment and record results
  4. Determine if hypothesis is proven valid by testing
  5. Re-test as required
In a spell craft situation, the steps can be summarized thusly:
  1. Determine objective of spell craft
  2. Design a ritual to accomplish objective
  3. Observe ritual and record results
  4. Determine success of ritual
  5. Re-cast spell as required
Some practitioners do not engage in steps four and five. I find this poor practice because it is important to determine what spells work and what spells do not. If one find that they are exceptionally talented at poppet magic and that is where their highest rate of success lies, it would only make sense to focus upon this as a primary mode of spell craft. Engaging in spell craft willy-nilly and failing to keep methodical records during this day and age, wherein you have the means to keep such notation safely, is purely irresponsible [2].

1. Please see my previous post discussing Sympathetic Magic.

2. It is for this purpose that ciphers were developed as were magical alphabets. Encrypting one's book of shadows (as the popular name for this kind of record is known) is a very old practice. The majority of spell craft that was practiced by the people in the past was not written down for two reasons. The primary reason was illiteracy. Instead, other means were used to pass the knowledge on. The second reason was because amongst those who were literate, it became quite dangerous to possess occult knowledge with the rise of the strong church and secular influences of the era.

Witchcraft became a byword for undesirable people. As such, people who did not fit the social mold, held dissident political, cultural, or social views, or were otherwise undesireable in this era of the past (the Burning Times) were accused of witchcraft and punished. Contrary to popular opinion, the most frequent punishment of witchcraft accusation was not burning at the stake but rather fines. The accusations became a means of redistributing wealth. A large amount of the difficulty during the 'Burning Times' came as a result of socio-political stresses within European culture. I will discuss this period in history in greater detail in its own post.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Additional writings.

Here are links to work that I've published under my pen name Argent Aisling.

Wicca 101

Spell Craft: Purchased, pre-written or personally made spells

There is some debate as to if spells one writes themselves are better then ones that are purchased or pre-written. Many traditionalist witches insist that one must write their own spells for them to be most effective. While I strongly encourage writing one's own spells, I recognize that sometimes it is simply not an option due to time constraints, availability of resources, or other unavoidable limitations.

It is important to remember that purchasing spells from another is not a bad thing. It can be an economical option. There is also a great deal of historical precedent set for purchasing a spell or contracting the services of another to perform said spell. That said, let us look at the costs and benefits of acquiring a spell that is crafted by another person.

The first and most obvious benefit is that the work of developing the spell was done by another person. The spell has been built upon established systems of correspondences and magical associations, requiring no research on your part. Presumably the spell has been tested before being set out for purchase, thus has been proven to be effective to some extent. Also, the list of supplies required for said spell is established and thus easier to locate.

It is more expensive to purchase a spell rather then write one. This does not always include the material components for a given spell. It does not resonate as strongly with one's personal energies and goals because it has a very general focus. A purchased spell is also difficult to customize because efforts to customize the spell may have unplanned for effects in how the spell manifests.

Writing spells for oneself allows one to tailor the spell to ones personal energy and specific need. It is significantly less expensive. Also, writing your own spells allows you to work within your personal spiritual identifications and correlations. Crafting your own spells allows you to use whatever you happen to have on hand at the time, which can be an additional source of savings.

They do, however, require some research to make the spiritual connections of the spell strong. It also is difficult to predict how it will manifest the first time you cast it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


I have published a few things. Please take a second to look here.

I thank you all for your readership, support, and love.

Spell Craft: Blessings vs Curses

Many people look at magic and assume that blessings are strictly 'good' and curses are strictly 'bad'. Much of what the entertainment industry has presented on this topic has been shaped by the cultural attitude that these two things are true.While cultural belief does shape the metaphysical landscape to a degree, the idea of 'good' vs 'bad is an over simplification and highly subjective. That which is 'good' for one person is not so for another in many cases. That is before you start to consider the implications upon the larger global scale.

As such, I define blessings and curses in a different fashion. Blessings are magic that works to increase an element of a situation. Curses are magic that works to decrease an element of a situation. As such, the spell to increase the population of ladybugs in your garden to combat the aphid problem, for example, is a blessing. The spell to reduce the population of aphids would be a curse. It is with a bit of cleverness and creativity that one can craft a blessing or a curse for any given situation.

Many people argue that certain phases of the moon are the times for certain forms of magic. This is not entirely true. While waxing phases of the moon do correspond with an increasing psychic 'tide' of energy, a curse can still be cast during this time. It will not be as effective as one cast during the waning phase, or the decreasing psychic 'tide' but it will still work if proper effort is applied.

Over the ages, generations of magical practitioners have learned that certain things are true about how one performs magic. Records of this information are transcribed into grimores, tables of correspondences, and recorded folk lore. This information bears out time and again that magic can be worked for increase or decrease of an influence.

There are very few spells that exist for the purpose of maintaining stasis of a situation. This is because life requires there to be movement in all areas. Apparent stasis comes from a slowing of the rate of change, but the changes will still occur. This is due to the fact that change is an inherent part of the fabric of reality. The trick to determining if a blessing or a curse is necessary to achieve one's goal is the same as that for observing anything.

One must compose their frame of reference and operate within those parameters. In the case of the aphid problem example, the first frame of reference calls the ladybugs to increase (blessing) to resolve the problem. The second frame of reference calls for the aphid population to decrease (curse) to resolve the problem. The end result, in either case, is the same, a resolution of the damage caused by aphids.

Some people are most comfortable working from a strictly 'positive' frame of reference. These people could be called 'lightworkers'*. Their primary form of magic is that of blessings. Other people are more comfortable working from a strictly 'negative' frame of reference. These people describe themselves as 'dark' magic practitioners. Then there is the group that uses a blended approach, like myself, who could be described as 'gray' magic practitioners.

The frame of reference is not always an accurate reflection of the intention of the person's actions. As such, it is possible that a person who is working a blessing has a targeted goal that will cause harm or distress to another individual. This is where one must take careful stock of what it is they are attempting to achieve. Blessing and cursing are mere mechanisms of how it manifests.


* 'Lightworker' is a popular term for people who do primarily positive (increasing) magic. Some people assume that the differences between light, dark, and gray magic are divisions between good and evil. I would invite those who make this assumption to review the previous discussion of the problem of evil on this blog here.