Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Aaron Leitch, author of several books, including Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, The Angelical Language Volume I and Volume II, and Essential Enochian Grimoire.
When I began my occult path—so many years ago now—there were two things I lamented above all else: 1) that Western culture had abandoned its official belief in magick, and 2) that what little remained of Western occultism had abandoned the Old Magick in favor of post-GD psychological models. I would have to say, in some sense, my entire career as an author/teacher and all-around very public occultist has been dedicated to setting those two things right again. I wanted to live in a community of people who believe in magick—and therefore place real value on what I do, rather than viewing it as a quaint or outright weird hobby. And, of course, I wanted to see the Old Magick revived for Westerners; for us to put away all the mental masturbation and “self-help” and reconnect with Nature as humans should. This seemed like a noble cause, so I set my sails and began my journey.
Yet, as often happens with age and maturity, I have learned and experienced more than my young self had. I have gained new wisdom and a decidedly broader perspective. My ship has sailed, the movement I wanted to start—but, in fact, had already started by the time I joined it—can’t be stopped now. The Old Magick is coming back, via several different channels. Even if I hung up my pen and never wrote another word, it wouldn’t change a thing now. And, now that it is clearly too late to do a damned thing about it, I have serious concerns…
My Neighbors Think I’m Kooky—And Thank the Gods for That!
So, in my youthful rashness I desired to live in a community that truly believes in magick. I wanted my neighbors to respect me for what I do; maybe come to me when they need help, and (in return) make efforts to support me in my art. And, yes, I thought maybe they should fear me a little, too.
Ah, but there’s the problem, folks! Fear. Have you taken a look around the world at communities that have deep-seated beliefs in magick? Oh sure, everyone comes to the local witch when they need help; but just let something go wrong that the people can’t easily explain. Let the weather go bad, or crops fail, or animals get sick, or people suddenly die or go missing. Ah! You can bet your bottom dollar all of those people who came to you for help last week are going to be at your door with torches and pitchforks. It is all going to be your fault, you dirty evil witch!
In Australia, they will still arrest you and lock you in a cage for practicing witchcraft. (Those laws, I believe, are starting to loosen.) But, that is absolutely nothing compared to what would happen to you in certain parts of Africa or the Middle East! There, a mob will drag you out of your home (with help from the police), torture you, and murder you in the most horrific and painful ways possible. Burning alive, stoning, beating, maybe hanging if you’re lucky. The townspeople—the same ones you helped when they were in need, gave medicine to when they were sick, even birthed their babies—will stand around and gleefully cheer as you die. Oh, and they’ll make your children and other family members watch. As a warning.
Now, it is certainly true that violence has been enacted against Pagans and witches here in the West by ignorant losers who can’t even read the Bibles they swing around. Yet, this is not a standard for our culture. And, while it is true that most people, deep down, actually believe in magick—it is not something that is officially believed. That is, you can’t have me arrested because you think I cursed you. You can’t use my occult paraphernalia or writings in a court of law to convict me of a crime. Officially (that is, legally) speaking, magick doesn’t exist and what I do is just a kooky hobby. It makes me weird, and might count against my character in a trial—but I can’t be convicted of being a witch in and of itself.
So my neighbors may or may not believe I’m really a witch with real power. But, whether they do or not, they can’t have me arrested for it. Nor for when they get sick, or lose a job, or a pet vanishes. What I do is protected as a religion, and the fact that I believe I’m a witch and can actually talk to angels and spirits just makes me eccentric—not someone worthy of the gallows or a lynch mob.
Old Magick Practitioners Around the World…Are Generally Assholes
This is one I’ve written about before, so I’ll try for a brief summary here: As social media has spread around the globe, it has brought us into direct contact with many foreign cultures and ideas—and it has also brought the people of those cultures into direct contact with us. Over the years, I’ve encountered a few conjurers from non-Western cultures—such as those from Africa or South America—where magick (specifically the Old Magick) is still an accepted reality. The same places where you might find yourself arrested and executed for the practice. But these meetings don’t often go so well.
You see, when you use magick in a culture that officially accepts its existence, then you are not practicing a mere kooky hobby. No, you’re running a serious business; it is your livelihood. However, it’s not likely you’re going to be the only wichdoctor on the block. You’ll have competition. And we all know what happens when you turn something (anything!) into a commodity and a business—it gets nasty. Competition sets in, and the warlocks go to actual war with one another. To some extent, it’s just about words—you have to declare yourself the biggest and baddest witch in town, and you must convince potential clients that every other shaman in the area is a fraud and a weakling. It’s all about driving customers to your store. And that is exactly why these kinds of witches don’t get along well in online forums. They come across as arrogant frauds, claiming stupid super powers and being nasty to everyone else. (I wrote about this issue previously, as well.) They are assholes—because that’s how their business model works.
But if you think these guys come across bad in an Internet forum, you don’t know them at all! When they are done ranting against all the “false magicians” online, they go back to their usual business of cursing the living hell out of all their competitors. In the West, we call online arguments between Pagans “witch wars”—and that’s cute, because real witch wars are serious business where sometimes people die.
One of the contributors to my Ritual Offerings anthology, Gilberto Strapazon, has written about this subject extensively. He came up in South America among the Candomble communities, where the various houses may or may not be run by corrupt priests, and open warfare between them is all too common. And I’m talking about everything from casting death curses to actual vandalism, burglary, and even murder. And it’s all because each house is attempting to build its “street cred” as the most powerful and feared, to gain clients as well as the ability to intimidate their own communities. If you doubt this is the case for even a moment, just take a look at Haiti—where the government has used Voodoo for generations to subdue and control its citizens.
What Worries Me
Like it or not, if you live in a culture that officially accepts the existence of magick, it’s probably not going to go well for the occultists who live there. Governments that legally recognize magick are generally likely to use it as a tool to subjugate their people. Common people who believe in magick are very likely to jump on the local witch the first time something goes wrong (even after depending on that witch when they needed help). And occultists and occult organizations operating in such cultures have a very high risk of becoming corrupted and evil at their core.
My youthful wishes—for the West to return to the old ways—were probably mostly selfish. I wanted to be respected (and feared—who doesn’t?), and I wanted to be supported and make a living from my expertise. I still want those things! But, now, I’m old enough to see the bigger picture, and better understand the negative baggage that can (will!) come along with that.
Every day I find myself more and more thankful that I live in a post-Enlightenment culture that (at least officially and legally) considers me to be a harmless kook. No police are going to show up at my door because a neighbor caught sight of my Pentagram or heard me chanting in strange tongues inside my house. I have an altar to Bast outside my front door, and it looks to people like a table with some decorations on it—odd for it to be outside, but who cares? I can’t be arrested or prosecuted for my witchcraft—even if I were the type of witch who likes to throw curses at everyone. A court of law will never (at least under current circumstances) accept “witchcraft” as a murder weapon.
So, yes, I still want to see Westerners learn more and more about the Old Magick, and to connect themselves back to Nature as it should be. Yet, I’m now also thrilled to know my government (and even some of my neighbors, at least to a point) believes my standing around in my house in funny clothes and chanting “meaningless” words has no affect on anything other than my own psyche. Western materialism and its centuries of disconnect from magick has actually served as a protective shield for us occultists, and has allowed us to flourish in a way we never could have otherwise.
I only hope, maybe even against all common sense, that we can somehow avoid that negative baggage—arrogance and corruption, all-out magickal (and physical) warfare, arrests, mobs, torture, execution, and worse—that threaten all of us if the old ways are once against accepted by our culture at large.
Stay true, brothers and sisters!
Our thanks to Aaron for his guest post! Visit Aaron Leitch’s author page for more information, including articles and his books.