When I was very young, the kids would pick on me because of my name. "Ellll-wood! Ellll-wood!" they would shout. For several years, I had virtually no friends. I learned to be alone.
When I got a bit older, I told everyone that they should call me "Woody." This worked until I was about fifteen or sixteen. By then, everyone my age was using the term "woody" in a way that was sexual in nature. After several months of kidding, I just stopped hanging with friends.
People really don't know how difficult this can be for a kid. I went from having friends to having no friends in school, then getting friends and having no friends again. By the time I finished high school I was a cynical loner, idolizing Friedrich Nietzsche's idea that we are made stronger by the things we overcome, or as he put it, "That which does not kill you makes you stronger."
So there I was, a loner at eighteen, studying philosophy by myself. At first, the Germans attracted me, but as I started college I began to look at the Greeks. As I studied what those ancient men had to say, I also started to look at their milieu. This included their religion.
Most of us today look at the Greco-Roman gods as being delightful or silly myths and fairy tales. As I thought about it, I figured that maybe two or three thousand years from now, people will look at our current religions and think of them as delightful or silly fairy tales and myths. Most people today don't think of our religions in that way, so I figured that most of the people back then didn't think of their religions in that way, either.
For some reason, I decided that I wanted to try and experience what the ancient Greeks felt about their gods. As I think about it today, maybe it was because I was trying to abandon the people and culture that I felt had abandoned me. For whatever reason, I spent a semester at college worshiping the Greek gods.
I really had to do a lot of research to find any information about how they did their worship. Sure, there were stories about the gods and what they did, but information on how they were worshiped was much harder to find. When I practiced some of the techniques I felt ridiculous. By the end of the semester, I was happy to give up the worship. Except for one thing.
I found something in that ancient religion that I didn't find in any of the major Western religions: the Goddesses. Hera was the goddess of marriage and the queen of all the gods and goddesses. Hestia was the goddess of the hearth and home. Athena was the goddess of education, science, and virginity. Artemis was the goddess of the hunt and of the moon. Aphrodite, of course, was the goddess of love and beauty.
I came to realize that what I really liked about the goddesses was that although they all could very strong, they were also very womanly. Some were comforting and caring in a way that I could only think of as being mother-like, and I came to love the concept of a mother goddess. I thought it was too bad that nobody was worshiping a mother goddess today.
I find it interesting that many people today study the psychologist Carl Jung more for his philosophy than for his psychological techniques. One of the things he talked about was synchronicity, the idea of "meaningful coincidences." On the same day I was able to write down my concept of a mother goddess, I saw a flyer on campus, tacked to a board that read, "Have You Ever Considered That God Might Be A Mother?" It announced a meeting for something called "A Course In Wicca." Two days later, I was sitting in a room with six other people who were discussing the topic.
I learned that there was, indeed, a modern movement to worship a mother goddess that was called "Wicca." Quite frankly, I felt uncomfortable being around the people. My years as a loner had definitely affected me. They gave a handout with a list of reading materials. Over the next week, I bought as many of the books on the list as I could find. Two weeks later I had read them all.
I began practicing a version of Wicca based on several of these books. I could mention a bunch of titles or authors like Cunningham, Buckland, RavenWolf, Grimassi, etc., but I imagine that most of you reading this will know them. Besides, that's not what I wanted to write about.
You see, along with learning about the goddess, most of the books on Wicca included information on magic.
This caused a real mental twist for me. Magic is only myth. Magic is just superstition based on synchronicities. Magic is just bunk. Why, then, did all these writers talk about it? And why did they talk about it as if they had actually done it?
So here was the twist: either I had to accept their contention that magic was real or I had to assume that what they were writing about was all meaningless. But if I accepted that it was meaningless it would mean that all of the time I had spent with the spiritual things I had read about in those same books, including becoming in tune with the divine forces I called "The Goddess," was also meaningless and I had wasted my time. Either magic was real or I was a total fool. Do you see my dilemma? For me not to have wasted all those months of study and work, I had to know that magic was real. But how?
That night I went to sleep thinking about this conundrum. I dreamed that I saw Athena, standing in front of a temple. In her arms she held scrolls which I knew contained the wisdom of the ages. Carved into the stones of the temple over Athena's head was one word: "Try."
When I awoke, I tried to figure out what the dream meant. I started thinking that maybe Athena wanted me to try some magic. This was a double shock to me. First, over the months I had come to accept Athena (and the other goddesses) as a real manifestation of the divine, as real as any deities in any religion. Second, I knew that my time of just reading about magic was over. I had to try some magic to find out the truth of it for myself.
I started with some simple spells from the books I had read. They were just candle spells and spells that used the tying of knots in a string. I had read that I needed to really believe in what I was doing, so I put aside my years of skepticism and cynicism and gave the magic a fair chance.
To my surprise, it seemed to work.
I did a candle spell to stop a neighbor from blasting his stereo at all hours. I like music, but I do need to sleep! After I did the ritual, he stopped blaring the radio into the early hours of the morning. A coincidence? Maybe. Magic? I'd need more evidence.
A knot spell was supposed to help me study for a test in Java programming. I have always been very interested in computers, but this class had been very difficult. I was not only having trouble memorizing the material, I was also having difficulties using the information I was supposed to be learning. We had a test in four days. With my B- grade average this class, I needed help, so I gave magic a try. Of course, I studied my behind off, too.
I got 97% on the test, the best grade in the class. Coincidence? Magic? I really wasn't sure any more.
Over the next several weeks I did more magical spells and simple rituals. Most of them were successful, and I was able to discover the mistakes I had made in the ones that didn't work. Over the next several months, magic became more and more a part of my daily life.
As I studied and practiced magic, I kept looking for more and more complex spells and rituals to do. This took me into the practice of ceremonial magic. I started doing more banishing rituals and complex magical rituals. I purchased or made elaborate magical tools and stuff, and the magic continued to work.
But the cynic in me still had lots of questions: "Is it real? Is it just a series of coincidences? Was I just in some way picking up on what was going to happen anyway? Did the rituals just spur me into action which even without the ritual would have given me the same results?"
I needed to have some sort of proof. I needed to know—positively, objectively, and without a possible question—whether magic was real or not. I needed to know if my rituals were really affecting reality or if I was finding meaning in coincidences.
I went to the occult section of the local big bookstore and looked for something that would allow me to discover the truth of magic for myself. I didn't care about what anyone else had written about the reality of magic; I wanted to prove to my "inner skeptic," my cynical self, that magic was either real or not. I didn't care what the answer was, I just wanted to learn the truth. I wanted something to specifically guide me in this discovery, something that could show that I was influencing, through magic, the world outside of me.
I went down the rows of occult books, saying to myself, "No, no, no, no, no," as I looked at each of the titles. Finally, I saw the book Summoning Spirits by Konstantinos. On the back cover it says in bold type, "Learn to safely evoke powerful spirits to aid you with any task." Due to my practice with Wicca, I had already invoked the Goddess many times, bringing Her essence into me. If I could evoke a spirit, be able to see it and communicate with it, I would know, beyond a doubt, that something special was going on and that magic really could exist in this world. I bought the book and started reading it that very night.
Today, I refer to what I did as my "Experiments in the Unknown." I began by reading the introductory material. Konstantinos describes what real evocation is: "In an evocation...the magician brings the entity to a place where the magician can view it and communicate with it. Evocation is therefore an external manifestation of an entity, as it occurs outside of the magician's body. This manifestation can take place in either the astral or physical plane, depending upon the type of evocation performed." (p. 5) I became quite excited. This is exactly what I wanted to do.
I moved ahead to the chapter on training. The book includes four sets of exercises. I was already proficient in many of them, including deep relaxation methods and concentration techniques. The next several chapters included basic techniques such as making tools, including a magic mirror, elementary rituals such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, and rituals for consecrating all of the tools. I already knew some of this and had some of the tools, so I was able to get this together in no time. The only thing that took some effort was getting everything together to make a magic mirror.
Konstantinos' instructions were clear, though, and I was able to make a combination of a Magic Mirror and the ancient Triangle of the Art. I got a piece of plywood that was three feet square. Then I had it cut into an equilateral triangle that was three feet to a side. I painted the entire thing white. Then I had a piece of glass cut into a circle one foot in diameter and painted it black on one side. This I mounted to the center of the board. Next, around the circle and using red paint, I wrote the name of the archangel Michael with "MI" at the top, "CHA" at the lower right and "EL" at the lower left. Finally, I wrote the divine names "TETRAGRAMMATON" at the bottom of the triangle, "ANAPHAXETON" along the right edge and "PRIMEUMATON" along the left edge. The instructions for making the mirror also include how to make stands so the triangle could stay upright on its own. The instructions from page 87-89 make this simple to do, so I had everything ready within a month.
In candlelight, this mirror and triangle were quite magnificent to behold. I could barely wait to try it out. I closely followed the directions on pages 132 and 133. Here is my abbreviated version of them:
- Prepare the room, including the lighting and incense. Have a sigil of the entity to be evoked with you and a special design called the "Tablet of Union."
- Perform all of the beginning banishing rituals.
- Get the sigil, wrapped in a black cloth, and magic wand (I just use my pointed forefinger and middle finger).
- Relax in a chair.
- Stare at the sigil and repeat the spirit's name for as long as it "takes for your skrying vision to awaken."
- Stare into the mirror and do the evocation.
- Continue until you see the entity. When you do, ask its name. If it's correct (the spirit you wanted), move on. If not, command it to return from where it came and go back to step 5.
- Have the spirit sign its name in the mirror. If it cannot, or if it gives a wrong signature or sigil, command it to return from where it came and go back to step 5. Otherwise, move to the next step.
- When you're sure it's the right entity, give a welcoming.
- Tell the entity why you called it and what you want.
- When you think it understands you, dismiss it.
- When the spirit disappears from view, record what you experienced in a diary or book.
- Put the sigil away.
- Banish the area again.
That seems rather long, but if you have everything prepared, the ritual is actually fairly short. I made it last longer by elaborating on the rite with longer versions of the rituals that I got from other books.
Before I could do an effective evocation, I had another problem to solve: which spirit should I evoke? At first I thought I'd try to evoke Athena—after all, She was the one who directed me to this path in the first place. But as I looked through the book, I found another spirit to evoke.
I'm sort of embarrassed to describe this, but I wanted to be complete, and you may have figured out my secondary purpose for doing this magic. The fact of the matter is, a guy with a name like Elwood doesn't get a lot of dates these days. In fact, I had never had a relationship with a girl that had lasted more than a few weeks. I was a different person now, though, and maybe with the help of a spirit I had a better chance.
So I decided to evoke the "Olympic Planetary Spirit" named Hagith. According to the book, "Hagith is very helpful in matters concerning love and beauty, as are many Venus entities. When working with Hagith, you are able to also call upon her servant spirits, which will guide you in matters of the heart in your everyday life. Under no circumstances, however, will Hagith or her servants perform any type of mind-controlling magic. Instead, Hagith will affect changes within you that draw love into your life." (p. 174) Hagith's sigil is given on page 175.
So what happened? I got to step 7 and... nothing. Nothing appeared in the mirror. I heard nothing. I thought that maybe I saw a bit of a cloudy shape in the mirror, but certainly not anything related to what Konstantinos describes: "a beautiful woman riding a camel...naked except for a green sash tied around her waist. She often holds flowers in her left hand." (p. 174)
Rather than give up, I decided to continue. I asked for Hagith to sign her name in the mirror. I thought I saw the cloudy shape move, but there was nothing else.
But I persevered. I welcomed Hagith, then I told her why I had called her and what I wanted. I had it all written down on some cards, but it was too difficult to see in the dim candlelight. I started to speak from my heart, and then my pain and loneliness just spilled out. Finally, I thanked her and dismissed her, then did the final banishings.
I wrote it all down in my magical record. When it came to what I thought of the ritual, I put down one word:
It was about a week later, while I was outside of class, when an event occurred that made me wonder if the ritual had really been a failure. I was sitting in a grassy area toward the middle of campus. It was one of the few areas where there was any grass. The day was warm, and I had my back up against a tree.
I was reading Summoning Spirits intently. Normally I disguise my magical readings, but I was pouring over this book to discover what I had done wrong. I kept going over the sections I had been practicing. Why hadn't I seen Hagith? I had done everything right. Had I missed something? Perhaps I should go on to the later section of the book which shows how to bring spirits to the physical plane rather than just in the mirror. Maybe I'd have better luck. Maybe I should just use a plain magic mirror without the lettering. Or maybe I should use a Triangle of the Art, with a painted circle in the center per the instructions in the book. I needed to see Hagith. How else could I tell if the magic really worked?
Horrified that somebody non-magically-oriented person might think I was crazy enough to believe in magic, I quickly closed Summoning Spirits so that the somewhat nondescript back was showing. "Just a book on..."
I looked up at a smiling face. It was a girl from my next class. Actually, it was the girl from class. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, and she was talking to me. I fumbled for words. "... a, uh, book on, uh, uh, medieval philosophy."
Her smile changed as her eyes shot around, looking to see if anyone might see her. She reached up to her neck and pulled out a chain with a pendant from under her shirt. It was a beautiful silver pentagram. My eyes widened and she laughed. "You have no idea how happy I am to meet somebody with 'uh, uh' similar interests." Then she laughed and her eyes sparkled. "Let's talk after class, 'kay?" All I could do was nod as she tucked her pentagram back under her shirt.
We went into the classroom but didn't sit together. She was sitting with some other girls, but there was something about her every time I looked that way. It was as if she was glowing. I couldn't concentrate on anything other than her.
After class, she came over to me and said, "C'mon. Let's go back to that tree and talk." So that's what we did. For some reason I could look in her eyes and tell her everything. At times she laughed (the right times, thank goodness!) and at other times her eyes just watched me with bemusement. I didn't know what to make of her.
"I have never met a boy more fascinating than you," she said. "What incredible experiences you've had. I've been studying Wicca for only a short time, but I want to do more magic, too. Is there any way I could study with you? Maybe we could even work together."
I was totally surprised. She wanted to spend time with me. And even if it was only to study, just being around her was wonderful. Then I started thinking that maybe it might not be such a good idea. "Won't your boyfriend mind if you start spending a bunch of time with me?"
She laughed again. "I dumped my last boyfriend when I started studying Wicca. I've really grown, and he was such a...boy."
"I just realized I don't even know your name," I said.
There was that smile of hers again. "After what you told me about the goddess who started you on your magical quest I'm sure you won't believe me, so I'll have to show you." she pulled her wallet out of her purse. and showed me her driver's license. Typed across the top was her name: It was Athena!
We started studying and working together that week. Within two weeks, we were also dating. Before a month was over, we were a couple.
I went back to my magical record and my first attempt at an evocation. I put on an added comment concerning the results of the ritual. It read: Although I did not actually see Hagith, the result of the ritual was undeniable. I still want to see spirits clearly in a magic mirror or on the physical plane, but I am now absolutely sure of one thing: MAGIC WORKS!
I am continuing my "Experiments in the Unknown." But now I have a partner.