The Witch-Magician

The Witch-Magician February 24, 2023

image of desk with incense
Image by Ann Milovidova from Pixabay

I am a Witch and a magician. There are more of us than you might expect. Witchcraft and ceremonial magic are compatible and complementary.

The Original Connection

Witches my age generally know something about ceremonial magic. When I became a Witch information about practice was scarce – I personally own every book before 1975 that talked about how to actually do Witchcraft. When we ran out of other things to study we picked up Israel Regardie’s books about Golden Dawn magic. We found Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers’ translations of The Lesser Key of Solomon and The Greater Key of Solomon and recognized some of the material that shows up in our Books of Shadows.

The ceremonial lodges were public half a century before Witchcraft entered popular culture. Every kind of Witchcraft owes a huge debt to Gerald Gardner, and Gardner in turn owes a debt to the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley. The first time I saw a performance of Crowley’s Gnostic Mass I was surprised to recognize Drawing Down the Moon and consecration of wine and cakes. Historians of Witchcraft today recognize that connection. In the mass I was also startled to hear “so mote it be”; later I learned that this phrase comes from Freemasonry. Mathers, Crowley and Gardner were all Freemasons and drew on those rituals as templates for their oaths and degree structures.

Community Growth

We’ve come a long way in my lifetime. Witchcraft has normalized. In 2014 the Pew Research Center pegged the number of Americans identifying as Wiccan or Pagan at one and a half million and our numbers are still growing. The world is so much easier and safer for all of us now that there are more of us. In my late teens being a Witch was dangerous, you could lose your friends, family, job, kids. Now it’s an aesthetic. It’s beautiful!

There’s a lot more information too, we’ve spent the last half century building magical culture. Check out the Llewellyn catalog, every quarter new books come out exploring fascinating magical threads. There are numerous other publishers too and ebooks are easy for anyone to bring out. There are web sites and videos and TikTok clips teaching pretty darn solid technique.

So today we have a lot of choices. People identify as Wiccan or Witch, traditional or Gardnerian or eclectic, spellcraft Witch or green Witch. In ceremonial magic we have Golden Dawn magicians and Thelemites, chaos magicians, Hermeticists, esotericists. There are Pagan reconstructionists of every conceivable culture and Hellenic theurgists who practice Neo-Platonic rituals.

Specialization and Division

All this choice has led to tendency to specialize, which in turn can lead to a narrowing of identity. Two of my favorite people recently discussed having to choose between being a priestess and a Witch in their writings because Witches reject their priestess posts and the priestess community rejects their Witchcraft. This is startling to me. When I was initiated in 1977 I became a Witch and priestess and Pagan, they were all the same thing. It’s great to see so many paths but sad to see definition by rejection.

We’ve turned our choices into silos. The criteria to recognize someone as similar enough to practice with has gotten pretty restricted. A few years ago a Gardnerian was initially rejected from a polytheist conference because the organizers didn’t recognize Gardnerians as polytheist. One magician was forced to choose between Hellenic reconstruction and Egyptian reconstruction until he discovered the magic of Alexandria which combines both.

Policing the borders of our practice boxes us in. To use a Thelemic phrase, this is Old Aeon thinking. So much of our cultural work today is about expanding possibilities. We’re working to bend the gender binary, break the walls of racism, express ourselves as multifaceted beings. We need to bring this effort into the magical world too.

Staying Open to Learning and Growth

It’s important to devote ourselves to one magic and learn how to do it well. I spent the first decade of my magical life as a Witch before I took on ceremonial magic. But when we define ourselves too narrowly we close out the opportunity to improve our craft. I’m a better Witch for having done the Gnostic Mass and a better Gnostic priestess for having done the Golden Dawn work.

Ten years is a good marker for how long it takes to learn a new magic. After a decade on one path many of us start looking around for new ways to grow. Some people leave magic at this point and just stop practicing or go to Buddhism for a new point of view. If you love magic though there are so many ways to practice now that it’s impossible to explore them all in one lifetime. Walk through any Pagan event and check out the diversity of groups and paths, one of them is bound to call you.

Because of their connected history, Witchcraft and ceremonial magic are particularly well suited to work together – they’re not binaries, they overlap. You can be a magician and pick up Witchcraft. You can be a Witch and do ceremonial work. It’s a great combination whichever way you work it. Witches pick up high pomp rituals, magicians learn to loosen up and be more practical. Most importantly you don’t have to choose or give up one to do the other. Magic doesn’t lower our horizons, it’s a rainbow opening up a world of possibilities.

"Yeah, winter is hard for me too. Every weekend I plan something fun to do, ..."

The Winter of the Recluse
"I want to emphasize just how valuable NoCramming's reviews are when it comes to finding ..."

Community Thelema at Babalon Rising
"On one hand, there is no place for hazing in initiations and no one should ..."

Surprise and Consent in Initiation
""Returning to Leland is like discovering that your grandfather is actually cool."Love it. So true!Great ..."

Charles Godfrey Leland, The Grandfather of ..."

Browse Our Archives