The Witches’ Pyramid, or the Four Powers of the Magician, are a learning tool for students of the Craft. Each one of the powers is associated with a direction and an element, and each of these powers can be used as a way of viewing an approach to study. In order for a Witch to have a complete understanding of anything, all these powers must be present. I thought that this week I would go through them individually, and explain how they relate to a given magickal work; and how teachers can help their students to grasp them.
Noscere “To Know” (East, Air)
First, when undertaking a study of the Craft, the Witch must know her material. Since Air is associated with beta consciousness, communication and the intellect, this is the place in which the basic school-like material is learned. From how to perform a basic ritual to the planetary correspondences, to when the Esbat falls and what the Sabbats mean, this is the lore that is required to enact spells or rituals. Most of this comes from talking and studying, asking questions and reading. East is the place of new beginnings, so it makes sense that all knowledge starts here.
Guides: You’re probably already doing everything necessary to impart the knowing if you’re assigning reading and homework, and teaching and communicating. Some students won’t respond well to this, just as some students were hopeless at schoolwork, and that’s okay. Just do your best and let them catch up (with your help) when they fall behind. Seekers with learning disabilities may be more challenging. You will have to decide whether or not you have the patience to deal with their condition (it’s okay if you don’t; you cheat them of learning by pretending you can handle it if you can’t). You will have to be patient and persistent and try to find alternative methods of imparting the information that may not be intuitive to you. But they will thank you for the effort and they just might teach you something; some of my favorite students have a mild form of autism or ADD, because they look at the world differently and teach me how to do the same.
Velle “To Will” (South, Fire)
The zenith of understanding is Will, which is associated with Fire and alpha consciousness. True understanding only comes when the Will desires it. This is how short-term cramming becomes long term information. Also, some room for creativity is necessary here, because this level of understanding is about action and expression.
Will, in this context, is also about True Will, and I’m not sure this is something that we take into account as much as we should. Sometimes, a particular path isn’t for us; or it isn’t for us right now. Sometimes we have to raise our babies to a point when they can have a babysitter before we make it to the coven again. Sometimes we’re Heathens and not Witches, even though we’ve been studying with the local Reclaiming circle. And that’s okay! While I am a believer that nothing happens without work and dedication, I also believe that everything will happen in its own time.
Guides: I probably don’t do as well at encouraging this as I should. I’m pretty good at the other points of the Pyramid, I think, but because I plow on and do what I like without stopping to take a personal accounting of myself often enough, I’m not good at teaching others how to do it. It’s important to check in with yourself (and your students) about where they are at and how they feel about certain things. I’m going to start offering a monthly “chat with the High Priestess” day and try to mitigate that a little bit. And I encourage you, and your students, to do more divination. A daily practice of drawing a single Tarot card isn’t a bad habit to get into.
Audere “To Dare” (West, Water)
In the West, the sun sets, and so does the knowledge a student tries to grasp. Water is about feeling and doing. It’s associated with theta (and especially shamanic) consciousness. This is the stage of learning when you have to do something with what you’ve learned. Writing and performing ritual, making music or art, doodling even, are all great tools to use in conjunction. Daring is good! To learn, you must risk and try.
Guides: I keep saying in this column that the more senses you bring to bear, the better something is understood and learned. It’s especially important in imparting teaching. Give your students places to experience or visualize something for themselves. Teaching the meaning of the Sabbats is one thing, but if you do a guided meditation on those, it generally sticks better. Teaching how to call the quarters is good; now let them do it. This engages the subconscious as well as the conscious mind, and it turns a series of statistics into something visceral that they grasp intuitively. Allow your students to play and visualize!
Tacere “To Keep Silent” (North, Earth)
In the North are the depths of the night and the element of Earth. This is possibly the hardest part about the learning process. It’s associated with delta consciousness, which is the level of deep sleep, deep trance and coma. In terms of the Four Powers when we’re speaking of magick, this is the power of keeping your own counsel and not sharing your work with others whose Wills may work against you (because they think you’re doing something wrong, they don’t believe it will work, or they want something that is contrary to what you want.) This also applies to our Craft study because the truths we grasp are very personal, and others may not understand or agree, even in your own circle or coven.
When absorbing the work of the Craft, we need to time to let it simmer and percolate. There is a time when leaving it alone, not doing anything, and letting the subconscious ruminate on it a while, is necessary; especially with the Mystery portions. Just as fields need a fallow period, we need a period of rest to recover and absorb. This also applies to periods of learning in general. I have noticed that my own study and advancement in the Craft moves in cycles, and the more I have done the more rest I need. The most obvious example of this that I can remember from my own experience was a fateful Mabon weekend. I was already a Third Degree initiate in the Pagans for Peace tradition, and I conferred the Third Degree on a friend of mine by Drawing Down the Sun; then I went to a Mabon ritual in which the theme was crossing a threshold the following day; and on the third day I received my Third Degree in the Star Sapphire tradition by Drawing Down the Moon. I went home exhausted, and for six months afterwards I did nothing except acknowledge the Esbats. Lots of magick and transformation and it needed time to process!
The other aspect of “keeping silent” is that sometimes, especially in a mystical quest like witchcraft, things must be lost before other things are gained. I’ve spoken about loss and the lessons of pain before, and sometimes, these experiences are the only way your Higher Self knows to teach you about some things. Change is like death; that’s why the Death card in the Tarot means “change and transformation.”
Guides: Allowing this period, and counseling students through the process of loss, is the only medicine and guidance you can offer. Try to be there to do it.
Tacere “To Go” (Center, Spirit)
In the Witch’s Pyramid, all of these come together at the center, “to go.” This is associated with Spirit and gamma consciousness (divine insight and creative inspiration; “awen.”) By integrating all four of the Powers, the Divine can reach through your Higher Self to give you true insight and wisdom. And that’s the whole point of the practice, isn’t it? Again, however, this is “allowing” rather than “doing.” The Higher Self works on its own schedule. The Four Powers give it room to work.
Guides: You have to “allow” too. When your student comes to you with his or her eyes ablaze speaking of divine guidance or a new truth grasped, let her speak. Try to help him grasp the experience and give it context. Be encouraging and ask questions. You might learn something!
Next column: Learning the Language – The Purpose of Symbology in the Craft