Magick: Taboo, Destruction, Healing and Transformation.
Magic is something one is born with and is inherent to all members of our species. However, as with all traits, it proves to be stronger and more resilient in some than in others.
I was born witch and as with all human internal predilections, outward expression differs with the surrounding environment and how that environment is experienced and interpreted.
Creativity and Magick are the dancing serpents of our internal DNA. Some of these snakes have different markings and some simply prove to be more powerful and resilient creatures. Often they are dismissed along with other proverbial ‘childish things’ and gradually fades to a memory that eventually reappears in slower and older years.
As a child I was gifted with a crazy itinerant background which ensured I was often alone with little to distract from encouraging the fertilisation and growth of these magickal genetic markers.
I devoured books, particularly fairy tales and folk lore. A religious background meant I was also exposed to the biblical lore which contained stories of transformation, magic, monsters and wonder.
I always believed in magic and always believed that I was a witch. I remember my mother saying that initially she thought and hoped that it was phase that I would grow out of, but I never did.
I would employ my sister to join me in a games of ‘worship’ where I would construct temples with offering bowls of rice and flowers, and would build homes in the grass and local woodlands of wherever I was living, for fairies.
Aged seven I used a book voucher I had been given as a birthday present to buy a subscription for ‘Man Myth and Magic’. This proved to be very short lived subscription as my father became terribly upset at the magazine’s content (which included images of naked Alexandrian rituals) and he forced the newsagent to refund my money. Despite only getting to see a few issues it still had an enormous impact on me and years later I found myself constructing sigils using Austin Osman Spare’s technique which I’d retained memory of reading about in those wonderful heady pages.
Everything I did in my childhood served to educate and reinforce this inner witch. Even the (over) exposure I had when young to Catholicism, was assimilated and transformed to inform my witch self about the power of glamour and the power of belief.
With puberty came a time for conscious choice, a step beyond child-like games of wonder, enthusiastic and random accumulation of information.
I continued to read voraciously and still have copies of Richard Cavendish’s ‘The Black Arts’ and Gareth Knight’s ‘A History of White Magic’, which, sad to say were taken out and never returned to Wellington Public Library when I was eleven. It was around that time I also decided on a path of divination which I realised was an integral part of any witches life and I started studying and practicing palmistry, something I continue to do to this day. However I realised very early on that working with palms was a direct contact magickal science that operated differently than the gateways, portals, journeys and subconscious triggers that I needed to enhance my magickal practice, so I started working with the tarot to fulfil that criteria.
My first pack was by Ryder Waite, then at 16 I briefly worked with the Thoth tarot until I discovered the Tony Willis deck which was the perfect fit for me in that we danced together, always learning and neither of us becoming dominant.
At some point I’d come across a teaching that said in magick one must choose the path of love, wisdom or power. I believe now that this is rubbish as all paths are about power and the first magickal lesson is learning how to deal with it.This insight came much later though, so I followed my youthful misguided premise and decided walk the path of knowledge. Consequently in my mid teens I started working with Golden Dawn Rituals and the teachings of Crowley in what I felt was a way to validate me intellectually as well as assisting me to evolve spiritually. Already I was mixing within a male dominated community and the work of Aleister Crowley appeared to have a greater foothold and kudos than the more ‘basic’ witchcraft, which I naturally gravitated towards.
As I moved more and more into countercultural wild traveller environment, the magick also became wilder and less structured. The music became industrial, spirituality was subverted and witchcraft seeped into ritual as we imbibed hallucinogens, fucked and cavorted on beaches and in rainforests and fused magic and anarchy.
Chaos magick per se hadn’t become a known thing at that time in New Zealand, but the 80’s social and political unrest, the drugs, the graphic novels and the wildness of my peers seemed to tap us in to the collective consciousness that produced Chaos Magick in other parts of the world.
I was sixteen when I created my witchname and personal sigil and at the same age I started consciously working with bones, road kill and remnants of death.
I was messed up with drugs and had an eating disorder but magick was still a huge and integral part of my life.
Practising divination on young people who were going to die was a sobering experience that caused me to back off from my palmistry and predominantly focus on tarot as there was a protective impersonal aspect about it, and the cards themselves act as a intermediary between diviner and querent.
New Zealand as a country is a strange land and more recently I’ve wondered if working in ritual context in an undisciplined way with the wild energy of place, perhaps had something to do with the high casualty rate of my peers.
Later when I lived in Australia, Asia and England I met up with tricky earth energies but nothing like my time in New Zealand. I think the combination of undisciplined teen energy and the spirit of this youthful and strange land was particularly explosive. In retrospect I see that this was another indication of our age and phase of development; choosing a specific practice that generates the greatest power for that time. This may well be done unconsciously and perhaps is one of the many initiatory thresholds we pass through in our lifetime; dicing with inebriants, death, crazy hormones and madness and seeing how committed you are to continuing your practice when everything falls apart.
At the time these spiritual directions seemed natural to follow, but in retrospect I can see them as necessarily developmental and very intrinsic to the times.
My twenties proved to be a very messy era that was exponentially littered with drugs, miscarriages, homelessness and general unhappiness.
My magic operated at a very basic, survival level. I used sigils (successfully) to get off legal charges, manifest money to eat and to buy drugs. I also did divinations in pubs as a means to buy cigarettes and drinks so I learned to introduce a measure of cold readings into my spreads for strangers as it wasn’t appropriate to give in-depth insights in such circumstances.
As my life became more chaotic I found that my magic became more distant. In part this may be because I started living in bigger cities where I no longer had a garden or access to nature but mainly I believe it was because my spirit was shrivelling as I was living at a base survival level.
I spent several years in rehab and dry houses and as the drugs washed out of my system I slowly began to reconnect my levels of self and began to heal.
My first step was gardening and then choosing a physical discipline which would enable me integrate these fractured selves. I chose yoga, a physical and spiritual love affair that remains constant steadfast and strong in my life.
In the beginning of Maya Daren’s The Divine Horsemen she quotes an old Haitian proverb, ‘Great Gods do not ride little horses’ and if we want to work with gods and spirits we need to be STRONG!
Yoga gave me access to physical strength and flexibility, a sense of the joy of being within and working with my body. Though of course I had come across Crowley’s work with yoga before (and eventually I actually trained as a yoga teacher in the Vivekanada school, Vivekanada being one of Crowley’s teachers) it wasn’t until I actually practiced fully I realised the core power of the practice lay in working at one with your body and its ability.
Though my tarot and palmistry had been constants through my dodgy years, I needed more. I started to explore other practical ritual systems as I realised that I wouldn’t be whole until I properly fed my witch self.
I explored new age philosophies which simply enough, didnt work for me. As with my experiences of Catholicism I realised there were valuable things to be learned such as the power of drumming, dance and control of language and vocalisation, and I also learned to switch off my judgement as to what ‘hardcore’ was, and that every spiritual path is open to destructive power dynamics in groups.
I continued my experimenting and became aware that my inability to be unable to recognise spirits or god forms by name or gender rather than by feel, was something that could be worked with rather than fought as I had previously done. I needed to operate at a basic level and build up slowly, exploring my vulnerabilities and changing my perceptions of what constituted strength.
I started creating fetishes again and realised that is, was, and always will be the strongest manifestation of my inherent witch, so I looked at exploring traditions that used such techniques.
Thus I researched Santeria, Voodoo, Traditional and Sabbatic Craft.
I refused to kill as it went against what my inherent gentleness, a trait which had been challenged at points in my life and consequently I had decided this aspect of me was something I wanted to acknowledge and keep. Some traditions that resonated with me, I would not take final initiatory steps,having a core knowledge that the god forms I work with would honour my acting through my intensity of belief rather than of a prescribed and implanted system .
As I had been left terribly damaged by the life I had lived, I used my magickal explorations as part of my healing.
I worked with godforms that were outsiders and constructs of the fallen such as Lilith, as a way of exploring my own alienation, then peeled away those societal judgements to find the core of both them and myself.
I worked with my menstrual and veinous blood to learn about my cycles and the way they ruled my relationships with my magickal guides, and to ascertain how these spirits and guides reacted differently to different types of blood.Having had hep c for many years at that point made my blood work even more relevant as traditionally good spirits only gravitate towards fresh and beautiful offerings, whereupon the ‘bad’ spirits gravitate towards the tainted, the rotten- so if I looked at things with this definition in mind what were the reactions to spirit and godforms to receiving my tainted blood?
I also experimented with sex (something I had never done before, as abuse, years of prostitution and rape had made me a passive participant in sex acts) as sexuality is simply enough an expression of self and to know my self I needed to know my sexuality and its power.
I set up magickal groups and worked with group energies, and constantly explored creatively.
One incredibly powerful magickal tool that I started using in my teens and returned to in my thirties was a mirror. I always used older mirrors as these are mercury or silver backed and I prefer to use one that has an oak surround. Paschal Beverley Randolph utilised mirrors in his sexual magickal work, Robert Cochran also mentions them and there is countless mention globally in folk magic texts of spirit work with mirrors as well as a form of mirror work used in yoga called Maya yoga (Maya translated into magic in this respect). My primary use of this tool wasn’t for divination but for separating subjective and objective selves and stripping back layers to find aspects of me that were inherited from family, aspects that went beyond gender, ancestral lineage and eventually came to the heart of the matter in its accessing the shared universal self. However I also used it in correlation with sex magick, divination and ritual work.
In my early forties my world turned upside down as I entered menopause and my mother died. Both of these things challenged my spirituality and entered me into a more insular sphere of experience and interaction with the spirit world.
I became involved with left hand path Tantric practice which eventually led to me to folk tantra as the underlying philiposohy that resonated most with me.
Art became my main magical form of communication and communion and working on a earth centred level helped me translate the new phase in my life.
Death of a mother challenges everything about spirituality and being physically present in the process of losing the being that brought me into this world, caused a major analysis of my part in this reality, something that was exacerbated by losing my bleeding and fertile self.
Another thing which caused a major revaluation of my spirituality has been my being cured of my hep c, something which I had had for nearly 30 years and precipitated many of my magickal blood workings and also influenced the way I related to the deities and the spirits that I worked with.
On one level there was a huge relief and the moving away from shame and ‘the divine punishment for indecent living’ as Keith Harding said, but on another there is the awareness that the illness that created the bond you had with certain god forms was gone and the nature of this relationship has changed completely. In some belief systems your disease makes you at one with the god, so what happens when the illness goes? In my experience there is a sense of loss and loneliness, akin from being expelled from the symbiotic hive that one was once a part of.
So all of these things created a sense of dislocation that required major reoriention. Quietly working with remnants of death in my art and listening to the voices of the memories that lay within these things has helped me to anchor and reassemble.
My art work with bones, natural objects and remnants of death is akin to learning a new language and each assemblage or fetish gives me a key, that once deciphered creates a greater understanding of this new tongue.
Over this time I became aware that I have never been a group person and much of my working within a group or tradition had been about a search for my people and a need for validation within a like minded community, rather than the need for the strength that comes from a group magickal working.
Of course there is no. power surge quite like plugging into communion with one’s gods and spirits and group rituals can intensify this feeling to the nth degree.
I mentioned earlier that I believe the first magickal lesson really is power and how to use it, and when I have taught or mentored one of the first things I do is recommend a reading list on cults. This isnt just to recognise an unhealthy power dynamic within a group structure but also to recognise personal predilections to follow or to gain control.
I am not a follower but I also do not like the concept of being a leader as it removes sense of responsibility from members of the group and can cause groups to stagnate if there is a static and fixed leadership. Progression needs change and challenge.
Groups drain me, in the material plane with their dramas and politics, and on other planes with my tendency to give out energy and use myself as a battery. Whilst I was going through my period of reassembling I needed to step back from group work as I found it eroding me, and often, by nature, I would absorb kick back from badly structured or messy workings.
I do like to play though, so over the years experimental magick has been a large part of my approach, I learnt a lot from this and love the excitement of the explorations. There should be a great joy in magick and when I connect I can feel like a small child, naughty and revelling in the plugged in sensation. O I’m well aware of the serious aspect of magick but the punishment and kickbacks are way to reminiscent of established religion and in my heart I feel that when you appreciate the birthright we have been gifted in and plug in to the power of everything, it should be FUN!
Creation of egregores through events and groups and online magickal workings with over 1000 participants were just a few of the things I undertook and loved doing but found very draining afterwards.
As I became older these post ritual fall outs took longer to recover from and post menopause/post my mothers death I needed to focus and transform and use all my energy to do that.
When I have gone through these ‘back to basics’ moment I often give away my magical equipment, work on my physical strength and health, have a daily yoga practice, garden, and focus on my art. I also have times when I do a daily LBR of the pentagram which is invariably shifts things into right focus for me.
Over the years people have asked me to define my practice and give myself a label. For some time I emphasised the fact that I am a magickal practitioner as I did (and still do) think that this is an important aspect of my spirituality; I practice and live my magick. I also defined myself as a non denominational and gradually there emerged the all encompassing grassroots title ‘animist’, however I believe all this is covered by the simple word ‘witch’.
My recognition of self as a witch is and always has been non negotiable, it is how it is manifested that has changed, and much of this hasn’t been to do with how I work with my spirits and god forms but how I interact with people.
Magic has always been about transformation be it on the deepest spiritual, physiological and emotional level or on the necessary mundane levels such as acquisition of material objects, money or power or for healing revenge or protection.
This of course reflects normal life on the material plane, and the two threads necessarily entwine, act and react- like the DNA strand itself.
As my life has shifted and changed, my practice has changed but there was a constantly present core that grew in strength and solidity.
I despise the idea of a post menopausal and older magickal woman being considered to be a crone; bitter, shrivelled, physically frail and repellant with their only strength lying in power acquired through wisdom. I think this is an antiquated and cliched perception. In Papua New Guinea post menopausal women are considered to be honorary men and perform initiation rites where they reenact young men’s birth albeit without the original tainting by female blood. In the Western world there is perhaps a similar view but less honour associated (except in some Goddess orientated groups), which is akin to saying if we are not able to bear children, and contribute to the baking of cakes of light, we have no value as a woman…I mean come on!
Whilst the crone concept does have some validity in its concept of knowledge and power acquired through time, I think this is not a gender specific phenomenon. Personally I don’t believe that the end of menstruation brings the end of femininity and magickal sexuality, it simply brings about its change.
Over the last ten years I have lost my blood, my mother and many of my magickal mentors, but I have finally learned the strength and power of my inner witch who stands proud and fully integrated within me.