A Witch’s Book of Silence
by Karina BlackHeart
published by KBH Enterprises, December 2015
Technology giveth and technology taketh away, but current technology has brought democracy to the publishing world. If you have a computer and an internet connection, you can publish a blog for the world to read. Under the Ancient Oaks was published on a free Blogger site for its first 4½ years. With a little more work and a little money, you can publish actual physical books (whether or not you can sell them is another matter).
A Witch’s Book of Silence is short and narrowly focused – not something that attracts attention from mainstream or even alternative publishers. But here it is, looking as clean and professional as anything on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.
More importantly, it’s available. Witches, Pagans, and other magical folks have always shared arcane writings amongst themselves, but you had to know someone to even find out they existed, much less get your hands on a copy. Now all you need is an internet connection and a few dollars. I’m happy about that, because this is a book that needs to be in general circulation – I’ve already recommended it to a friend.
I don’t review books differently based on how I get them, but for those of you who care about such things, I contributed to the Pubslush fundraiser for A Witch’s Book of Silence. As always, my obligation in a review is to the readers, not the writer. If I couldn’t honestly give it a good review, I’d conveniently forget to review it.
The opening line says “we have all heard of the Witches’ Pyramid: to Know, to Will, to Dare and to Keep Silent.” Most of us try to use the Witches’ Pyramid not as a three dimensional model but as a one dimensional process: first we learn, then we figure out what our will is, then we dare to go after what we truly want, then we keep silent about our working. But life is rarely linear – more often it’s spiral and cyclical, bringing us around and around over and over again. Also, a pyramid needs four firm sides – at the same time. If any one of them is weak, then the pyramid – the magical operation – will collapse.
Silence is very hard for most of us. Yet without it, our magic and our lives will be weak and less effective than they otherwise would be.
Why are you so afraid of silence?
Silence is the root of everything.
If you spiral into its void,
A hundred voices will thunder messages you long to hear.
Most of us are afraid of silence. Last year I coordinated a UU Sunday Service on silence and darkness. We always have a moment of silent meditation and prayer, but this time our guest speaker decided to let the silence run for three minutes instead of the usual one minute. Long before he ended it, numerous people were getting uncomfortable: fidgeting, looking around, reaching for their purses or phones – anything to keep from being alone with their thoughts.
But as magical people, we know that silence is necessary. Karina BlackHeart says:
If we are to court the power of silence, we must be willing to engage with the powers of the north, the deep earth, the dark moon and death itself. We must be willing to name and openly confront our fear of these dark powers.
A Witch’s Book of Silence is divided into three sections. The first deals with concepts of silence and why we find them troubling. It talks about secrecy, both good and bad. There have been too many occasions where someone in the Pagan community has used silence to hide abusive behavior. But there are some things that simply shouldn’t be shared with the general public. Karina quotes Victor Anderson: “Everyone has a right to know. But can everyone handle it? Can everyone know? Can everyone be a doctor or a musician? No.”
I’m pretty open about what I believe and what I do. But there are some parts of my practice where I’m intentionally vague, and other parts I simply don’t talk about. Part of this is because some experiences can’t be expressed in words, but other parts are too sacred to risk profaning them (i.e. – making them ordinary) by talking about them.
The second part of the book is titled “The Practice of Silence.” It includes meditations and other spiritual practices designed to help the reader work with silence and get comfortable with silence. The third part is titled “Embodiment” and is a description of what we can gain by the practice of silence – and what we can lose if we don’t.
When we speak of our magical workings, we damage the spell itself in several ways. We diffuse power. We pre-maturely and accidentally cast. We open the door to the spell being tainted by the (often unconscious) complexes or negative emotions, thoughts, words or deeds of those with whom we share our intentions.
The consistent practice of silence teaches us to listen deeply and to speak rarely. When we do, our words carry great power.
Karina BlackHeart is an Anderson Feri initiate and writes from the perspective of that tradition. In the Preface she says she believes A Witch’s Book of Silence will be helpful to anyone who needs to cultivate the practice of silence in their spiritual lives. I think she’s right.
Be still and know thyself. There is no hurrying this process. The answers are coming in the silences between breaths.