The Craft Is Actually Hard Work, If You’re Serious

A Pagan Almanac for August 3 and 4, 2012

Lunar Cycle: Days 6 and 7 of the Full Moon

Athens: Hekatombaion 16 , “Federation Day”: sacred to Aphrodite Pandemos (good day for the Great Rite), Peitho, Eirene
Hekatombaion 17

Martyred on August 3, 1429:
Maria Rattingeren
She died in our name. Let us remember hers.
William Blake wrote:

Love to faults is always blind,
Always is to joy inclin’d,
Lawles, wing’d & unconfin’d,
And breaks all chains from every mind.

Seceit to secrecy confin’d,
Lawful, cautious, & refin’d,
To every thing but interest blind,
And forges fetters for the mind.
_____________________________________________________________________________

Once again Star has set me thinking, in her blog today about “Paying the Price” for what you want, about an apparent lack of an esoteric level to the Craft or Paganism.

Hmmm. Strange. Seems perfectly obvious to me that there is a deeper level to the Craft that can fulfill a hunger for spiritual strength, but a good part of it is transmitted by oral tradition, not in books. Or, rather, bits and pieces of the information are scattered throughout many books, but unless you already know the central concept, you cannot recognize them. In another sense, like the Greater Mysteries of Eleusis, the experiences inherently cannot be stated in words. For example, consider Ed Fitch’s wonderful “magic manual,” in which he translated Franz Bardon’s hermetic discipline into terms that make sense in the Craft, and which was finally published by Lllewellyn. You see, there’s a bit of oral tradition, about a certain preliminary experience, that Ed (I think purposely) did not include in the book. Without it, you cannot do any of the exercises in the book (except for the first, easiest ones) and therefore cannot hurt yourself.

Yes, there are Third Degree secrets. No, they are not the silly ones many people think they are. No, they are not the silly rules about initiations and lineages and keeping absolutely everything secret observed by the Gardnerians of the Strict Observance. In a way, those rules are a smoke screen, because I know the Gards do know and use the actual secrets. If you don’t know what they are, that’s because you came into the Craft along a path inhabited by other people who don’t know what they are—which is the real danger of being totally eclectic. The secrets need not be learned only from people who already know them, although that’s an efficient way. In the NROOGD we were able to reinvent them for ourselves, because we had an amazing pool of multitalented people. Further, when we met the Feris and the Gardnerians and later other Trads, they were amazed that we could have done that. But we did it because we spent at least five years working together in order to do it. That was the price. BTW, did you know it was Theos who invented aspecting?

Without that deeper level, the Craft is as silly and inadequate as the Sunday School version of Christianity: pablum for infants. As a Trappist monk, a friend of Thomas Merton, once said, “If people understood the joy of this life, they’d be breaking down the doors to get in.” But if you are not willing to give up your middle-class lifestyle (I mean the values, not the income level), you cannot understand, let alone do it—and if you have kids to raise, you must not give up on your responsibility to them. In India, one becomes a Sunyasin only after your last child has become an adult. All that applies to learning and living that deeper level of the Craft.

In an earlier blog, I described five concepts of what a Witch is, the fifth being the fully trained and ordained High Priest/ess. Then I added another level: the Sixth Witch, whom I could also call an Adept. How does one achieve that level? By hard work.

First, one must have an absolute dedication to search for objective truth, to researchevery important question for oneself, to never settle for anyone’s opinion, no matter how well-informed it seems, to always resist the pressure that everyone around you will exert to persuade you to buy into their beliefs.

Second, you must master the literature, just as if you were earning a Ph.D. So first you need to know what that literature is. More research. I’ll give you a clue. You must read Murray and Graves and Gardner, for starters, as theology, not history. My good friend, the poet Robert Chrisman, gave me my first copy of The White Goddess when I was 21, because he knew I needed it. I read through it four times before I could grasp his argument as a whole, then I read through it another four times before we created the NROOGD in the late 1960s, based on his theology. That was hard work. I have an IQ of 165. I got 1580 out of 1600 on the SAT. I was about as arrogant a snot of a kid as you can imagine. And Graves was almost impossibly difficult for me. It will probably be too difficult for you. Bite the bullet.

Third, if you cannot master Graves by yourself, then you need to apprentice yourself to a genuine Adept, or else gather a coven of extremely bright, creative, and mature people around you and study it all together. That might work, if you work hard enough, for at least a year. If you’re not willing and able to do that work, you’ll never be a Sixth Witch. Tough. As Scott Peck said, life is difficult. And how do you identify a genuine Adept? I’ve figured out some guidelines. I might tell you some of them, later, if you say please. But I’ve learned not to waste my time trying to explain quantum mechanics to people who have never done the work needed to understand Newtonian physics.

Well, I’ll be a nice guy. I’ll give you another clue. Back in the late 1970s, I was trying to find an adequate spiritual discipline for maintaining my sobriety, because I did not understand the Craft well enough at that time to use it for that purpose. Having involuntarily stopped being Catholic at age 14, there were many adult issues about that religion, and others, that I had never dealt with. I was finally trying to do that, trying to figure out how Catholicism could work for a very practical purpose. I ran into a wonderful line in C.S. Lewis: “Christianity really doesn’t make any sense—as long as you think you don’t need what’s being offered.” Exactly the same is true for AA. . . and for the Craft.

As Lady Delia Morgan has argued, belief in the reality of the Gods is central, essential, necessary, and sufficient for the Craft to be your genuine religion. If you do not believe that the Gods are real persons who exist independently from the human species, then for you they are not real; so you are not practicing my religion. My argument is simple. If the Goddess were not a real person with infinite power, then She could not keep me sober. But She does. So She is. I had evolved the maxim, “All power in the Craft is from the Goddess,” back in the early 70s. It was not until years later that I realized what that insight really meant.

Finally, I will give you another clue about my path. Maybe it will work for you; maybe not. It is described in what I believe to be Robert Graves’ best poem, “The White Goddess.” I remember it being in first person, like so:

All saints revile her, and all sober men
Ruled by the God Apollo’s golden mean -
In scorn of which I sailed to find her
In distant regions likeliest to hold her
Whom I desired above all things to know,
Sister of the mirage and echo.

It was a virtue not to stay,
To go my headstrong and heroic way
Seeking her out at the volcano’s head,
Among pack ice, or where the track had faded
Beyond the cavern of the seven sleepers:
Whose broad high brow was white as any leper’s,
Whose eyes were blue, with rowan-berry lips,
With hair curled honey-coloured to white hips.

The sap of Spring in the young wood a-stir
Will celebrate with green the Mother,
And every song-bird shout awhile for her;
But I am gifted, even in November
Rawest of seasons, with so huge a sense
Of her nakedly worn magnificence
I forget cruelty and past betrayal,
Heedless of where the next bright bolt may fall.

He never says it explicitly in the book, but his biographers confirm that he considered himself to be a prophet of the Lady; so he was a genuine progenitor of the Craft.

  • Gaddy

    Anyone who has attempted to hand-craft one’s own magickal tools can tell you the title of this post is true indeed; let alone the real work of faith, study and dedication that a religion such as this demands of it’s adherents. 

    • WhiteBirch

      Wow I really like that insight, that was definitely the first surprise I encountered. What I thought would be a simple and easy “crafty” process became hours of work, blisters, splinters, broken nails and sandpaper. The outcome was worth it, and the lesson too. The work, though, I’ll acknowledge has barely begun and I’m not always as diligent as I was when I was making my first tools. A good reminder.

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  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    As we say in the Ekklesía Antínoou, Haec est unde vita venit!  :)

    • Sunweaver

       Gods bless you!

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        We take that statement very seriously in the Ekklesía Antínoou, so if you’re making light of it, that’s pretty rude.

        • Sunweaver

          No offense intended. Gods bless you anyway.

  • raindove

    Huzzah!! Great article and so so sooooo very true. Training, getting under the wings of an *experienced* Witch… does more for a person trying to learn the Craft (in particular Wicca) .. than one can ever begin to conceive. The downfall of this path has been all of the “solitary” paths with the “I can do this myself, without any help” attitude, among other things that I won’t even begin to talk about right now. Long and sorted .. those things could take forever. Such as “the one book High Priestess” .. or how ’bout the “One Video High Priest” ? Yeah, too many books, too many videos .. and no common sense to get training. That’s the problem with the community, IMMHO.
    But .. speaking of The White Goddess, I’m only on my .. uhm … I’m not even going to tell you how many times .. of reading it. But, I ran into something about that book .. and how one of our writers of Celtic history .. got the notion that the Celts had an ancient “tree calendar” and how this was not true, etc. and how this person got this notion and/or idea .. from reading Grave’s White Goddess.. I have still yet to find that in there. LOL.

    • Aidan Kelly

      Graves did make a lot up, but not the Tree Calendar. He got that out of a work called Auraicept na-N’eces, “Hearings of the Scholars.” I found an edition that gave the Gaelic text and a translation of it in the bowels of the Stanford library in about 1965. Not easy to find, but it does exist.

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        Are you sure about that, Aidan?  The Auraicept does have a tree-list as one of its ogam-lists, but I’ve never seen a calendar corresponding to it along with that, or in any other part of the text.

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    I totally agree that any religious or spiritual path is hard work if you’re going to do it right.  I have trouble with a search for “objective truth” – there may be such a thing, but how can we ever be sure we’ve found it?  So many people think they have it, and they’re all saying different things. 

  • Sunweaver

    I found myself doing the nodding bobblehead thing here.
    It is so important to seek not only the kind of knowledge that comes from, as they say in the vernacular of my people, book larnin’, but also the kind that you have to fight with yourself to understand. The search for truth ain’t easy. It doesn’t make any sense, even when you’re looking straight at it (or especially when), until you’ve done the work to get to that understanding.

    ETA: And I can’t help but think of Federation Day as the day the United Federation of Planets was founded.

  • Kate Gladstone

    Re:
    “And how do you identify a genuine Adept? I’ve figured out some guidelines. I might tell you some of them, later, if you say please.”

    Please?

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