I’m upset and I’m struggling to figure out how to respond.
This weekend a white supremacist murdered 22 people and wounded 26 more in El Paso in a terroristic mass shooting. Another murdered 9 in Dayton, Ohio even though police killed him only 30 seconds after he started shooting.
The El Paso shooter left a manifesto where he claimed to hold radical racist views before the 2016 election, but he repeated some of the current President’s talking points, including calling immigration an “infestation.” The President blamed it on the media instead of taking responsibility for his incendiary words.
In fairness, on Monday Trump said “our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.” That’s a good first step, but it would have been better if he had said it two years ago after Charlottesville. We will see if his words and especially his actions are in alignment going forward, and if anything will be done to, if not end mass shootings, make them less frequent and less deadly.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, the man who’s supposed to be the voice of reason dismissed the uproar by saying “our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data.” Neil DeGrasse Tyson may be a brilliant astronomer and physicist, but he’s a lousy philosopher.
We intuitively understand that accidents and disease are an unavoidable part of life. We understand that ordinary crime and violence happen, even as we work to eliminate them. But we are rightly outraged when terrorists (and make no mistake – that’s exactly what these two men are) kill large numbers of people for no reason other than the shooters are filled with hatred and fear.
I am outraged. Not shocked or surprised – if you’re shocked you haven’t been paying attention – but outraged nonetheless. And I’m struggling to figure out how to respond.
Some say the best way to respond to terrorism is to go about your business: “don’t let the terrorists change our way of life.” But that assumes someone – the FBI, the Navy SEALS, somebody – is doing something to root out the terrorists and eliminate their threat. I see no political will to even admit there’s a problem, much less to do anything about it.
I refuse to accept that there’s nothing to be done. I refuse to accept that all I can do is buy body armor, get a concealed handgun license, and leave everyone else to fend for themselves.
The necessity of witchcraft
Traditionally, high magic is the pursuit of the wealthy – people with the time and money to build alchemical labs and ritual rooms, to procure rare books and expensive ingredients, to spend days and weeks in elaborate rituals.
Low magic – including witchcraft – is the pursuit of ordinary people who find the doors of power closed to them. The doctor won’t treat you? Go see the local witch. Can’t get justice from the law? Go see the local witch. Or maybe, become the local witch. For many of us, magic and witchcraft isn’t a hobby or even a self-improvement plan. It’s a necessity.
And you didn’t become a witch so you could find a parking space at a crowded mall. You became a witch because it brought a bit of power and autonomy into your life. In the words of S.J. Tucker “a witch decides a witch’s fate.”
I’m a Druid, not a witch. Different traditions and different emphases, but when it comes to working magic I’m not sure it matters much. The Witches’ Pyramid is a proven approach to magic, and I’m ready to use it now.
In order to get what you want you have to know what you want – any good magical working begins with target selection. The narrower and more specific your target, the better chance you have of actually getting what you want. That’s why beauty contestants wishing for “world peace” is a cliché of what not to do.
An end to white supremacy, misogyny, patriarchy, and oligarchy is a worthy goal but it’s a lousy target. It’s far too big and too vague. And working magic to get rid of what you don’t want is difficult and often backfires. Better to work to bring in more of what you do want.
So, what do you want? Stronger gun control laws? A new, more progressive owner for Fox News? How about legislators who will try something instead of doing nothing? This isn’t some big group working – I can’t pick your target for you.
The hardest part of magic isn’t magical at all. It’s trying to figure out what to work magic for.
The ancient Greeks considered magic to be impious. It was taking for ourselves what rightly belongs to the Gods. The Romans were less dogmatic about it, but they still prescribed the death penalty for anyone working malefic magic. In most parts of the world throughout most of history, it wasn’t safe to be known as a witch. This is still true today in many parts of the world. People fear witches.
None of that stopped people from working magic in Greece, Rome, or anywhere else. When people had a need for magic, they went to their local witch. Or in some cases, to a temple priest trying to make a few bucks on the side.
None of us in the West are likely to ever face the Inquisition or the Witchfinder General. Still, we have to dare to work magic. We have to accept that we don’t have all the facts and we can’t see all the ways they may play out. Unintended consequences aren’t a possibility, they’re a certainty. But if the need is great enough, we will do it anyway. We will dare to work magic to manifest our desires.
I haven’t come up with a better definition of magic than Aleister Crowley’s “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.” Magicians in Crowley’s tradition have some deep thoughts about what will is, what it includes, and how we manifest it. I think those thoughts are mostly good and worth our contemplation, but they’re not what’s most important here.
In this case, will is simply our willingness to get up off the couch and get to work.
It’s fine to talk about magic, to think about magic, and to write about magic. But eventually we come to the point where it’s time to do magic.
Draw your sigils. Fill your jars. Make your poppets. Call the spirits. Add the elements, say the words, make the motions.
Do you have the will to do what must be done?
To Keep Silence
There is a great need for silence in our regular spiritual practice. But as with To Will, in this case To Keep Silence has a simpler meaning: keep your mouth shut!
One of my early teachers said that talking about your spells tells the Universe that you already have what you want and so you don’t need anything more. I have issues with the metaphysics behind that statement, but in practice it often seems to be true.
When it comes to matters such as this, it’s important to remember that there is an opposition. Some of them are magicians too. Others work magic even though they would be horrified if you called it that. They will work magic against you… if they know what you’re doing.
Don’t tell the enemy your plans. Force him to spread his magic wide and thin, like the Allies forced Hitler to defend the entire coast of France prior to the D-Day invasion.
Keep silence even when your spell begins to work – there is still time for those on the other side to work against you. When it’s done, then you can talk about it.
Acting in Accord
There are only four sides to the Witches’ Pyramid. Jason Mankey adds a fifth side: “to go.” When I was a baby Pagan I heard the fifth side called “acting in accord” – I like that term better.
As best I can tell, magic works in three ways: the manipulation of unseen forces, the intercession of Gods and spirits, and psychological programming. The best magic incorporates elements of all three. That means the best magic has elements of ordinary mundane psychology in it – elements that will motivate you to take mundane action in accord with your magical goal.
Call your Congressional representatives. Call your state legislators – much of this work can be done at the state level. Advocate for policies that will make mass shootings less likely to occur and less deadly when they do occur. One person killed by a white supremacist is too many, but fewer deaths and fewer ruined lives is a good thing even if it’s not zero.
Make this an issue in the 2020 elections, and not just at the Presidential level. We need Representatives and Senators with the will to take action instead of taking campaign contributions from the NRA. Find the candidates who support your views and help them win.
I refuse to accept that there’s nothing that can be done to prevent mass shootings. I refuse to accept the inevitability of white supremacy, misogyny, patriarchy, and oligarchy.
I’m not an emperor – I can’t make laws by decree. I’m not even an ordinary politician.
But I’m not powerless.
And neither are you.