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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ceremonial Magic

Ceremonial Magic Image
While witchcraft seems to have become almost the default religion for new age spiritualists the source of much of the operational mechanics used by modern witches, Hermetic Magick, remains obscure to many and the practices of Ceremonial Magicians are little understood and often misconstrued even by those people that should have the greatest affinity with the discipline. Recently I have become more involved with the eclectic witchcraft movement here in Australia where it has developed into a diverse and amorphous collection of spiritual practices that fall under the general pagan umbrella because of a small number of commonly held beliefs and practices. In fact it is the just these few things that are held in common that binds this loose community together as their individual practices vary so widely that they quite often only resemble on another on the most superficial level. Apart from a commonly held reverence for the Earth and a very common practice of observing the eight Wiccan Sabbats that mark the turning of the Wheel of the Year modern witches have very little common dogma or praxis.

While not all witches are practitioners of the magick arts there are many that are and, especially amongst the eclectic witches, the types of magick that they choose to do connects them to their Hermetic roots more than the traditional Wiccan practices followed by Alexandrian or Gardnerian covens ever did. Even so, their understanding of the origins of many of the magickal practices, even the structure that is employed in their rituals, remains surprisingly obscure to them. One of the things that I have been asked most often in my conversations with the many witches that I have met recently is: what is the difference between a witch and a magician?

The short answer is that Witchcraft is a religion and Hermetic Magick is a spiritual, mental and physical discipline. Whereas being a Witch is an end in itself, being a ceremonial magician is a means to an end. There are other superficial differences; magicians generally don't use the spells that witches rely so heavily upon while the invocations made by a magician tend to be long, ponderous and hypnotic orisons designed specifically to test the endurance of concentration, to stretch the will of the magician and to focus the entire spiritual force of the performance inward to make the magician become all that he can be and, if performed correctly, more. While the object of the central practices of witchcraft are to celebrate the rhythms and cycles of life the magician seeks by his means to transcend them; where witches seek to become one with the world that they live in, the magician seeks to become one with the ultimate source of its creation, to destroy the world of matter and to remake it in his own image by the power of his Word.

A big part of the difference lies in the intent that is behind the practices and performances. Even the most basic arrangements like the magick circle are constructed with intentions that

are almost polar opposites. Witches view the magick circle as a sacred space, the place between the worlds where they can meet with the essence of their gods in celebration of the spiral dance of life. Their circle is intended to be a container for the spiritual force that is invoked by their circumambulatory dance and chanting invocations. A magician's circle on the other hand is to keep everything out, to form an impenetrable barrier between himself and everything else, to sweep the space clean of anything that is not purely himself so as to reveal his purest will.

But rather than focus on the differences between witches and magicians it is far more interesting and productive to examine what they hold in common and the things that the two practices can share with one another. No self respecting ceremonial magician should pass up the chance to borrow the horned god or the White Goddess to use in their ceremonies if they fulfill the needs of the moment. The intricate elemental correspondences that witches use for herbs and stones can also be profitably appended to any working magician's qabalah. And witches would benefit from a structure of comparison between their eclectic collections of practices which would give each piece a greater meaning in relation to the whole. The strict discipline of the ceremonial performance with a precise regimen of gestures and consistent formulae for the construction of working operations would also be of value to the largely solitary working eclectic witch whose isolation means that they often have only a rudimentary understanding of the theory of ceremonial performance. It would seem that the eclectic nature of both practices gives modern witchcraft and Hermetic Magick more of a common ground than is usually found between many of the practices that fall into the category of Paganism.

Also read these ebooks:

Ed Richardson - Seidr Magic
Arthur Edward Waite - The Book Of Ceremonial Magic
Dion Fortune - Ceremonial Magic Unveiled

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