Traditional witches work directly with familiar spirits. In traditional witchcraft, this familiar spirit is akin to the muse of a poet or artist. The familiar is the pair to your own soul. The spirit shares inspiration, guidance and instruction. The mystic poet Robert Graves writes beautifully of this muse in his epic poem the White Goddess.
Witches use a variety of methods of trance induction and communication to correspond with the spirit familiar spirit or muse. The most common is a chance meeting in dreams, however such interchange depends on the felicity of dream recall and the right connection whilst unconscious. But, when a witch wants to communicate in the now, automatic writing and drawing are attractive options requiring nothing more than candlelight, a pen and paper.
Automatic writing comes to traditional witchcraft after the advent of the pencil, fountain pen, and affordable paper. Earlier methods were more conducive to earlier lifestyles, for example incubation and trance poetry, or channeled communication. Both of these methods are still valid today, but automatic
writing has the unique benefit of not needing a witness or note taker who translates or records the spoken transmission. The witch alone can contact their familiar spirit whilst in a trance, and then once out of trance, can analyze look at what was communicated.
Last turn of the century, occultism–most notably spiritualists and surrealists–advocated a dreamlike state of automatic writing and drawing for the benefit of channeling spiritual information. This method is also used to contact a variety of spirits, including a patron deity, ancestral spirit, or fairy. One can also access aspects of their own soul(s) like the id, the higher self, and past life selves depending on the goal and the tradition. Traditional witches naturally added this modern technique to their arsenal of tools because of its efficacy and similarity to older methods.
If you already have a positive relationship with a spirit or deity, this is a point where you could use your personal practice to work with them. Otherwise, it can be useful in contacting your own muse. Begin by dedicating your hand to the muse. This could be as simple as writing “muse” on your hand, or wearing a piece of jewelry dedicated to you muse, such as ring dedicated with their secret name inscribed on the inside, or even a woven friendship bracelet. Have plenty of large pieces of paper lined up and ready to write upon and a candle or lamp lit before you. Holding the pen in your hand, rest your elbow on the table and raise it before you. Close your eyes and begin trance meditation or path working; you can chant something like this to invite your muse to take your hand:
Familiar take my pen
Muse I love so,
do guide my hand
I’m not writing on my own
I am letting go
make me understand
the way of this path I’m on
Familiar take my pen
(by, Sara Star)
Through your closed eyes, the flame flickers and shadows and light play. Think of your hand, remember how it is propped up holding the pen, it is tingling a bit now because much of your own blood has drained from it; it is open and receptive to your familiar’s use. Think of your hand as though it is controlled by puppet strings; think of those strings lowering it to the paper and circling to write spirals. Open your eyes, has your hand done as you imagined? This is ideomotor response, which is a simple test of whether you are in a deep enough trance for successful automatic writing. Glance just once upon the paper to see the spirals and assure yourself the pen is working, then look away and focus your eyes upon the flickering flame. If words enter your mind, let them pass like subtitles along and do not direct them to your hand.
The automatic writing or drawing ends when a) you run out of paper, b) you feel too consciously in control of your hand, c) your muse stops using your hand and it stops.
At this point, pull out fresh paper and begin interpreting what you have before you. Do you see words or symbols or a drawing? Muses can communicate in your own tongue, develop letters of their own or may choose the non language art forms. Be patient and accepting of even the slightest success, and do not despair if you haven’t anything intelligible.
While you are still in a light trance, begin free writing or free associating from what is in front of you or something you are curious about. Begin by writing down the first thing that comes to mind, perhaps “candle” or “lamp” and keep free associating until you feel a sense of completion. With these two forms of automatic writing before you: take stock of what you have and consider organizing it for a polished spell, poem or drawing.
For an example, here is a creativity spell I composed from the few words found on over six pages of automatic writing my coven mates and I did today with the intent of preparing for this article:
Mother, mother, my warm heart murmurs
Messenger, messenger teach as I listen
Muse, muse, forever my sun, I see my best
(by, Sara Star)
- Automatic Drawing by Austin Osman Spare
- Psychography by William Moses
- The Surrealist Manifesto by Andre Breton