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.
I do love it when life serves up something truly novel!
You are likely aware of the modern debate over spiritual entities (be they chthonic, celestial, ancestors, angels, deities, etc.) and their relationship to magick. Some (such as myself) insist they are vital to magick, and are in fact even central to it.
On the other hand, we have those who believe spirits are entirely optional to magick, and one can perform all the miracles with the psionic power of one’s own brain. Personally, I fall into the first camp—and I bet you’re not at all surprised!
Classically, occultism was divided into three headings: Astrology, Alchemy, and Magick. (See Ritual Magic by E.M. Butler.) Astrology is the study and interpretation of the stars, and Alchemy is the study and transmutation of natural substances—quite often for the production of medicines. Magick, meanwhile, was defined as “working with spirits.” (As was the definition of witchcraft, for that matter.) This included ritual magick, spell casting, the making and consecration of tools and talismans, divination and skrying, and literally anything that involves the direct participation in or communication with the spiritual realm. It is your patrons and familiars who open the gates between here and there, who carry your spells to their targets, who charge your tools and carry out the functions of your talismans, who whisper answers into your ear, and more.
That’s not to say every single practice that can be related in some way to magick must involve the direct conjuration of a spirit. Nor am I dismissing the psychological and inner work that come along with a practice of magick—that is to say, the mystical side of the practice. (I firmly believe one cannot be a magician without also being a mystic.) From calm abiding meditation, mind training and study, and even yoga, there are certainly plenty of spiritual exercises that do not involve talking to a spirit. Of course, I do not consider those practices synonymous with “magick,” either.
And, yes, there are also plenty of spells that do not mention spirit conjuration. (And, for this purpose, I’m not talking about modern books written by authors who have already dismissed the necessity of spirits.) As is so often pointed out in this debate, natural magick and witchcraft very often involve the combination of various natural elements for their effects rather than directly dispatching a familiar. However, I must point out this kind of magick came from shamans and witches who learned it from their spiritual patrons. The reason those spells worked so well for them was because they received the instructions directly from the spirits, and they had the backing of those same entities in the spirit world when casting them.
If you purchase a book of spells written by someone else, you are simply following instructions their spirits revealed to them. But those instructions may not apply to you in the same way. For instance, perhaps one witch’s spirits wanted her to work with her hair unbound, but maybe your spirits want you to wear a particular headdress. Perhaps the grimoire you are using says to wear a purple robe, but your patron deity insists you should wear red. Maybe a spell calls for a wand of hazel, but your familiar prefers oak. By blindly following instructions written by others, without allowing your spirits to have a say, you could be greatly limiting your chances of success. Your truly powerful spells will never come from a book or another person (at least not entirely)—they will instead be those your own spirits will teach you, and for which you will have their support. Just because a spell doesn’t mention a pact with a spirit doesn’t mean it wasn’t written by someone who already had one—and who assumes you do, too.
Regardless of whether or not an individual spell mentions the involvement of some entity, I would be hard-pressed to find a single operation that is not *greatly* enhanced by invoking the participation of my familiars, helpers, and patrons. Whether they are communicating with me (often telling me how to make the spell better), opening the Gates for me, arguing in my favor on the other side, carrying my spells to their targets, guiding me through some astral realm, or simply standing beside me in my Temple performing a ritual along with me—my spirits are involved in everything I do.
So there is the usual debate, and where I stand in it. Nothing really new there. But, then, tonight I heard something entirely new. Apparently, there are those who believe working with spirits can be detrimental to your magical and spiritual practice! It was suggested that relying on them serves as a kind of crutch, stopping you from developing your own spiritual and psychic “muscles.”
Wow! I cannot begin to tell you how thoroughly I disagree with that idea! In my tradition, interaction with the spirits is exactly how you develop those muscles. First and foremost, you cannot hope to build a relationship with disembodied intelligences unless your psychic abilities are developed—and one of the first things a young aspirant should ask of their patrons is to aid him in perceiving and hearing them. The spirits most certainly can and will help you open your third eye and see (and/or hear, etc.) things you could not before. Even John Dee, who famously “lacked the ability” to skry the angels himself, actually saw them on more than one occasion after he had worked with Edward Kelley and the angels for a while.
And it’s not just about your spiritual guardians reaching into your skull and re-wiring your brain. They will also give you tips and secrets, or even guide you toward other sources of learning. Maybe they will bring a book into your life that contains useful exercises, or even put you into the path of a new teacher. One way or another, if you ask it of them, they will slowly and surely guide you toward increased psychic and magical ability. It is pretty much what they are there for!
The very idea that working with spirits would actually stunt such abilities runs counter to thousands of years of experience by shamans, wizard-priests, mages, and witches who found incredible psychic benefits in their spirit work. It also runs counter to my personal experience. Regardless of how many times I cast a circle, or charge a talisman, or hold an office in my Temple, or vividly envision an image in my mind—where it comes to psychic development (the ability to see and hear the spiritual), nothing compares to those moments when I stand before my Guardian Angel’s altar, hands upon her almadel (skrying mirror), with a completely open line of communication between us. Or, similarly, when I sit in front of my familiars’ altar, almond wand in my hand, and communicate with them. Those are the times my psychic muscles are given their best work out. It is hardly a practice that holds me back or causes my senses to atrophy.
Have you asked your Patron to make you a better magician or witch? If not—why not???
Our thanks to Aaron for his guest post! Visit Aaron Leitch’s author page for more information, including articles and his books.