Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
Silence Then Sharing
This past weekend I shared the details of a new magickal technique that I've been working on for some time. I have always been a tinkerer and an experimenter and have developed many formulas, workings, castings, spells, and such. Most of the serious magickal practitioners that I know are always adapting and expanding tried and true patterns, and/or creating new rituals and techniques from scratch. There is a lot of perfectly good material available that can simply be followed step-by-step and produce great results. We must not place novelty and innovation above what is known to be efficacious. However, the ancients did not know everything, and we do not have a complete record of their written or oral magickal technology, and there are needs today that they could never have imagined. Moreover if you are in a living tradition, then there must be room for innovation and the incorporation of new material.
New does not always mean better or for that matter safe or potent. Traditional materials have passed the test of time through means similar to folk process and natural selection. Stories, chants, rituals, charms, etc. are repeated and retold and change and evolve through the group process of communities and generations of experience. Those things that do work well are adapted to serve the needs of the people, are carried forwards, and become part of the lore and the magickal technology that is taught to the next generation.To some degree we still have this kind of communal group process as is evidenced by the changes that can be seen in our various Pagan and Magickal communities over the last several decades. I do have a little bit of concern that the speed of modern times, the luxury of separation, and the huge number of untested options available to us make the process of refining innovations more difficult.
Before I share a new piece of magickal technology, I make sure that I have tested it thoroughly. It is too easy to be caught up in the enthusiasm of a new creation and to inflict it upon others. If it is magickally effective, then it has consequences, side effects, and outcomes that may not be apparent immediately. As a part of my ethic of innovation, I test things on myself for months or in some cases years before sharing them. This is not about secrecy, it is about responsibility and accountability. I love to leap into action, and must often remind myself to use the power of silence.
The Four Powers of the Sphinx, Magus, or Witch are often summarized as the power to know, to will, to dare and to be silent. The first reference to these that I am aware of is in Eliphas Levi’s writings with later on Aleister Crowley added the fifth power to go (ire). This pattern, sometimes also referred to as the Witches’ Pyramid is fairly well known in many Pagan and magickal systems. Silence usually is the least developed and least explored power. Silence, I should point out, is also the element of earth and manifestation. I intentionally follow this pattern in my process of innovation. I will gloss over the stages of development related to knowing, willing, and daring, and pause in silence. I suspect it is easier for you to imagine the more active powers. When I'm trying something new it may take days, weeks, months, or in a few cases years before I move past the silence and go back to the beginning by sharing it. Then others begin the same process of applying their powers to test the new technique, ritual, etc. I'm a strong believer in the importance of informed choice and informed consent. How can I possibly ask my students or my peer group to try something without giving them significant information based on my own experiences.
Recently one of my students wanted to use a sigil they had constructed as a part of a group ritual. They drew it on a piece of paper and handed it to me and asked me what I thought. I looked at it and told them that I could understand the logic behind its symbolism and guess at its effects. Then I asked them whether or not they had used it and how many times. The answer was that they had never used it; they had only thought about it. I told them to go home with it and incorporate it into one of their own rituals. And then after several repetitions and variations to come back and describe what they observed as the results of their experiment. In the end, that particular sigil was not used in the group ritual. It is not enough to simply do thought experiments, magick must be tested.
So, this past weekend I shared the details of a new magickal technique with some peers and students. I was asked how long I had been working with this new technique and how often I had tried it. This particular technique started as an idea in 2004 and I have actually enacted it about 40 or so times. In the last 8 months, roughly once a month as a part of its refinement before an attempt to share it. That may sound like a lot of time and testing but it is commensurate with what I believe to be the risks and benefits of the technique. Something less weighty would've required a shorter span of testing, a shorter span in the silence. Once I have shared something and seen how it plays in the hands of others, I often have to go back to the drawing board. Or if I'm very lucky, I simply have to make minor adjustments. In either scenario I still follow the same development cycle again.
Of course there are many situations where spontaneity and instant crowd sourcing are an excellent approach to magickal innovation. Use your wisdom and your wits to determine what is needed. Though if you're at all like me, you will need regular reminders to visit the silence.
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