Aidan Wachter is well known in magical, pagan and occult circles as a highly respected talismanic jeweler. He first encountered the magical arts in 1982, and began serious study in 1987, largely as a method of gaining control over unwanted possession experiences. He is an eclectic practitioner, having worked with various streams of witchcraft, chaos magic, ceremonial magic, folk magic, and freestyle sorcery. He is an animist, and his work is spirit-driven and results oriented. He counts among his spiritual forebears Austin Osman Spare, Rosaleen Norton, Dorji Banzarov, and Jan Fries. He lives in the mountains of New Mexico with his wife, cat, several dogs, goats, and a mixed flock of chickens and muscovy ducks. He is the author of Six Ways: Approaches & Entries for Practical Magic. You can find out more about him on his website or his facebook page.
Your book Six Ways is such a unique blend of chaos magick, traditional witchcraft, and ecstatic spirit-work practices. How did you get involved with magick and how has that evolved into your current magickal practice?
I began having visitations (that I can remember) when I was eleven. While I didn’t link these to magic at the time, as I got a bit older they shifted more in the direction of outright spirit possessions. In time I began to look to magic as a possible way to understand these experiences and gain some measure of control over them. Chaos magic was an early framework I found that I could use as a sort of filter to look at varying systems of magic, from witchcraft to ceremonial magic to energy work. I used this filter to look for the elements that seemed to be required for practical magic to actually work for me in a consistent way.
In time, this grew into what I semi-jokingly call dirt sorcery, which is a very practical, here-and-now approach to magic, using the most helpful practices I’ve found from many different streams, from Buddhist psychology, witchcraft, folk magic to self-hypnosis- to name a few. I’m decidedly eclectic!
I was actually surprised that you wrote a book, as I wasn’t expecting it. I knew of you from your stunning talismanic jewelry. How is talismanic jewelry different than any other jewelry?
My jewelry work comes from my magical practice, 100%. I do a few custom ‘pretty/art’ pieces a year, but that’s not at all my focus. It’s the intention of myself and the shop spirits and allies to create working tools for magical people, period. The pieces I build, while often heavy with symbology, and intended to be used as fetishes, gates, spirit vessels, and tools. They are built from the ground up to serve as aids and allies in the work of magic.
How does your spirit-work impact your jewelry work?
It impacts it completely! My shop is where I do nearly all of my hands-on magical work, and the work I do at the bench is not separate from the work I do at the altar. I don’t work on pieces if it’s not the right time – and this is a spirit-led thing, not based on planetary hours or the like. I’m always seeking to be the best conduit, the best tool – for the spirits, intentions, or deities involved to guide the creation of the work in it’s most potent and effective direction. And this is all much closer to something like ‘channeling’ (which is a word with enough negative connotations that it gets quotes!) than ritual magic. Spirit-work is the primary driver.
What’s with the Shop Faeries? Is this a serious thing?
It totally is! The name, however, is intended to be a bit on the lighter side! This one is closely tied to the preceding question, as well. In the spirit-ecology that is the shop, I have a sort of collective of spirits and entities who have a stake in what goes on there. There are things I want to do that they say ‘nope, not right now’ or things I really didn’t intend to do that they will say (and this isn’t usually an actual voice, more a crystal-clear intuition) ‘today you need to design and build this piece’. That collective, the whole ecology, really, I call the Shop Faeries.
What’s your take on the reality of the spirits?
I came to magic due to my experiences with spirits, and I spent some time trying to see if I could find a plausible way to deny my perception of spirits as independent entities. I’ve worked with energy models, psychological models, and the like, but the overwhelming evidence is that we do, indeed, live in a world where we are surrounded by spirits. These may be ex-humans (the dead) or non-humans, like animal or land spirits or the more unearthly spirits that inhabit the Otherworld. But they are there, and they are available to interact with for those with a sincere desire to do so.
Do you think there is a right way to work with spirits?
I more think that there are some wrong ways to do it! While I won’t deny there are times where you have to use compulsion, like in an exorcism, I think that just like with humans this should be used as a last resort. I do understand that some people are deeply tied into systems where this kind of compulsion is the standard operating system, but I’ve never been called in that direction. I’d rather work in symbiotic, reciprocal relationships of mutual aid, support, and respect. This is what I am looking for in all of my relationships, so the extension of this into spirit work is to me really an obvious approach.
I think the most important thing is to be aware that imagination is a crucial part of the process! It’s the canvas or the screen where our interactions occur. So to me, it’s important to get comfortable with the idea that we are always coloring, always filtering our experiences through that medium of imagination. So the question becomes one of asking: what part of this is me, the receiver, and how much of what I am receiving is the actual message? Things I look for are elements of discontinuity, things that I am not personally interested in or not comfortable with, but that fit within the logic of the experience. I know that if I am finding exactly what I desire, exactly in a way that pleases me, then I am probably deluding myself. There’s almost always some level of friction or tension in a real encounter with the spirits, where I am being pushed or stretched beyond my comfort level. I also find that if what I am receiving/being told – whatever you want to call it – makes complete sense on a mental level from the get-go, I’m probably twisting things up at least a little. The really solid communications tend to be a kind of bone-deep knowing, far more gut than brain.
So the key questions for me are: what am I being shown that’s new (to me)? Where am I being asked (or told!) to do better? Am I being asked to really step into a position or perspective that I may be avoiding? The spirits don’t seem to give a damn about my comfort level. They are interested in action that leads somewhere, to some change on the internal or external. So if the messaging is ‘it’s ok to just cruise, to not take this work seriously, to stay within your comfort zone’, I know I’m not having a fully valid contact. My allies have zero tolerance for bullshit! Which can suck sometimes in the short term, at least as far as comfort goes.
How related are the approaches you talk about in Six Ways to how you work in the shop?
They are the entries to the kinds of work I do in the shop, absolutely. I took care to not include things that I don’t still find useful (which I see in a lot of books, in an effort to be a completist I expect). I think that each practitioner is called to or finds a particular path or set of paths that they can walk which lead ever-deeper. Six Ways is really an introduction to how I work now, geared to be accessible to someone just starting out. But it is also very dense, there’s a good deal of depth in there as well, as I wanted it to be useful to the long-term practitioner as well. Anyone who goes deep rather than wide with their practices will in time, I think, find a call to a specific aspect or function magic. The talismanic jewelry and related work, like the book, is mine.
I find it interesting that there’s more talismanic jewelry devoted to Hekate than any other spirit. Is there a reason behind that?
Hekate showed up first when I started the shop. I had the usual conversation which goes: ‘I don’t really do the religious thing, so what are we doing here?’ And the result was the Hekate’s Key piece. Since then there has been a pretty good stream of work for Her, and she has a place of honor in the shop. A lot of my trance-based work has to do with guiding the lost or stuck dead, so that is a likely a key part of the connection. That an abiding obsession with crossroads, and her traditional role in witchcraft. I sometimes call her Our Lady of the Three Ways, which to me are the road of life, the road of death, and the road between and beyond both. I also find strong connections between the Wyrd Sisters and Hekate, and the Norns are a big part of my practice.
Any projects we can look forward to in the future from you?
I expect there will be a series of classes for those interested in doing supported work with the material in Six Ways, a chance to get a bit deeper than it made sense to go in the book. I am also working up the material for either a class or book dealing with some applications of the trance material for mitigating the effects of old damage and what I think of as ‘buried programs’. Leaning towards a class as writing a book is a ton of work!
Patreon Exclusive Bonus
Aidan Wachter shares his simplest approach to charging and consecrating talismanic jewelry. This approach can be used for far more things than talismanic jewelry though, so feel free to follow this one where it goes! This is available for Patreon supporters with the tier “In The Know Jackalope” and higher.