Magic in Contemporary Witchcraft

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Contemporary Witchcraft magic is a blend of theurgy and goetia. It contains elements of folk magic, ceremonial magic and sex magic. (Some Witches also have incorporated non-Western magical elements into their practices.) The Witch works within a magic circle and uses four primary magical tools, which correspond to the ELEMENTS: the athame (or sword)—fire; the pentacle—earth; the chalice—water; and the wand—air. In addition, the Witch uses a censer for the burning of incense and, in most practices, a scourge and cords for tying knots (see WITCHES' TOOLS). Like ceremonial magic tools, the Witch's tools ideally are handmade or purchased new, inscribed with magic SIGILS or runes and consecrated in the four elements (water, candle flame, incense and salt). The Witch invokes the forces of nature, the elements and the elemental spirits that rule the elements (see ELEMENTALS) and appeals to the many faces of the GODDESS and HORNED GOD. Most Witches believe in working with benevolent beings and deities for good purposes. Many spells are derived from pagan sorcery and folk magic, based upon Frazer's Law of Sympathy. The Witch makes use of colors, scents, sounds, movements, symbols and visual images in ritual. Witches do not use BLOOD sacrifices.

Gerald B. Gardner, the English Witch credited with founding contemporary Witchcraft, the dominant form of which is the Gardnerian tradition, said he received ritual material from his original COVEN of hereditary Witches. He borrowed from the writings of Aleister Crowley and other occult sources, plus drew on his exposure to Eastern occultism (see BOOK OF SHADOWS). Gardner stated eight ways to raise power for magic.

1. Meditation or concentration. This corresponds to the ceremonial magician's preparatory period, in which he or she gains a clear idea of the purpose of the ritual, eliminating all other thoughts and distractions and focusing all attention on the task at hand. Gardner may have learned Eastern meditation techniques used in magic and in mysticism during the many years he spent living and working in the East as a British civil servant. Eastern meditation incorporates breath control (pranayama), steady and balanced posture (asana), finger and hand gestures (mudra) and chanting (mantra).

2. Chants, spells, invocations. Chants are spoken or sung slowly at first, then increased in tempo to shrieks. When the power is at a peak, the Witch releases it and psychically directs it toward the goal. Spells are combinations of movement, gesture and chanted rhymes or charms (the stated purpose of the ritual), designed to bring about the desired effect or change. Invocations are invitations or appeals to the deities for help.

3. Trance or astral projection. In astral projection, one leaves the body behind and travels in the astral realms in the astral body, or double, a spirit replica of the physical body. It can pass through physical matter and travel at the speed of thought. It is invisible to most people, though psychically attuned persons may sense its presence or see it. While the double is out of body, the physical form appears to be in deep sleep.

Gardner advised Witches not to attempt going out of body until clairvoyance was developed. To go out of body, he advocated assuming a kneeling position with arms strained forward and bound, so as to produce a sensation of being pulled forward. The scourge, a whip made of fabric cords, is applied in a light, dragging motion. By traveling astrally, a Witch can arrive at a distant location quickly, communicate with spirit guides or look into the future. Healing work can be done, including the analysis of a problem and the discovery of its solution; attendance to watch over someone; and the delivery of healing energy. It is also possible to use astral projection to influence others while they sleep or to engage in psychic attack; however, most Witches are opposed to harmful or manipulative actions (see WICCAN REDE).

4. Incense, wine and drugs. The fumes of incense contribute to the altered state of consciousness, a technique used by both Witches and ceremonial magicians. Gardner said that a moderate amount of wine before and during the ritual aided the raising of power but that too strong or too much drink could cause the Witch to lose control. Some Witches have experimented with drugs.

5. Dancing. Witches join hands and dance around the magic circle, speeding up the tempo until the power is at a peak. When the magic is released, they drop to the floor or ground.

6. Blood control and use of cords. Binding parts of the body with cords restricts blood flow and alters consciousness, which can facilitate the opening of the third eye for clairvoyance, and astral projection. Cords also are used in knot magic, which binds and releases magical power (see WITCH's LADDER).

7. Scourging. Religious mystics have used flagellation for centuries. In Witchcraft, it ideally is light, slow and steady. Scourging is a milder form of blood control, for it draws blood away from the brain. Not all traditions of Witchcraft practice scourging. Its use in those that do has declined since the 1960s.

8. The Great Rite. Sex has been an integral part of magic and religious rites since ancient times. Ritual sexual intercourse between the high priest and high priestess of the coven is said to release tremendous magical power (see GREAT Rite). It requires keeping the mind focused on the purpose of the ritual and ideally releasing the magical power at the moment of climax. The Great Rite often is performed symbolically rather than in actuality.

For many Pagans and Witches, magic is a part of everyday life. The world itself is magical, as is the web of the cosmos. Not all Pagans and Witches practice the same types of magic. Some may prefer ceremonial magic, while others prefer folk magic, and still others prefer "eco-magic," based on natural earth energies and the resident "spirits of the land." Most are mindful of ethical responsibilities when practicing magic. Bringing harm to others is not only unethical, but brings harm to the magician as well. Magic is to be used for growth and betterment.

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