‘Juicy’ led me to fruit; this in turn suggested fruit of knowledge – and allowed me to travel the path to the Western Mystery Tradition. From here, I was able to nip across to ritual magic. In this circuitous way, I moved from the physical to the spiritual, Here is the story of my training.
I have hinted. I have called myself a Pagan. I have spoken of Ritual Drama. Now this shamed scurrying is coming to an end. My esoteric studies are an important part of who I am, and, sadly, I have met prejudice close to home. This has made me feel very fragile – but, oddly enough, more determined.
It is a sad indictment of our society that if I were ‘confessing’ to being a Catholic, or a Jehovah’s Witness, a Mormon or a Born Again Christian, people reading might tut a bit – but there would be a secret kind of, ‘Oh well, at least they are reputable RELIGIONS!’ type of relief-sigh.
Are they? No, I am not going to travel down that path. Partly because of my conviction that we are all one, all connected; partly because I think any post which seeks to discredit the beliefs of others is unhelpful, to put it mildly – but mainly because I do not belong to a religious body.
I shall state it very baldly: I study the Western Mystery Tradition and practise Ritual Magic. Many of you will, I suspect, have guessed.
My training started in the early nineties when I was introduced, by my friend D, to Paddy Slade, a Village Witch living nearby in the South West. She had the traditional Witch’s Cottage at the top end of the village – and was a fiery, feisty and formidable character.
Most rituals were conducted outside – and tended to be organic affairs, to say the least! She had the four Quarter Lights set up in her garden – and we, along with others from nearby towns and cities, would travel over there for the big festivals.
There was an atmosphere of slightly fraught creative chaos about the whole thing – but Paddy, then in her sixties and a real live-wire, presided over us all with a will of iron, an irascible tongue and, under it all, a kind heart.
After the rituals, we would have a wonderful feast, each person – in theory, at least! – bringing some food or drink as a contribution.
We were even filmed, in 1993/4, enacting a Samhaine Rite in the Village Hall – though I am not sure the programme was ever shown on television. If it was, I never saw it.
Paddy was very much a Hedge Witch: close to nature, the seasons, an advocate of ‘Low’ Craft Magic, I suppose you might say – though one or two of those attending her rites were more formal and ‘High’ in their attitude, and this occasionally caused tension.
It was at one of Paddy’s rituals that I first met Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, Director of SOL ( Servants of the Light ), though at the time she was just another cloaked figure.
D and I, as previously stated in these annals, bought Arthurian Tarot decks and The Hallowquest books in 1993 – and set out on our journey of discovery through the year long course (which I am now re-doing as a solo practitioner).
I learned a great deal about magic and ritual from D, and he was my Magus right from the start. We performed rituals in my flat; we visited Glastonbury and other places of mystical significance – and we talked, often long into the night, about the Western Mystery Tradition: about the Arthurian Tales, Atlantis, the various gods (Egyptian, Norse, Greek), the mythical beings, the legends of the British Isles, the Mabinogion and so forth.
I was enthralled and inspired. These talks and adventures met a spiritual thirst I had barely been aware of before, a thirst which my Christian background had never managed to slake.
Years went by, years in which I married and became a mother, years in which magic settled to the bottom of my mind – fermenting, I now suspect, since the interest never went away entirely; I was just busy following the Hearth Path, and teaching full time.
2007 was a transitional year in so many ways. I was broken, by degrees, into bereft pieces. It was one of those years in which I was given a hefty tap on the shoulder and shown a door opening. Times before then, I had failed to heed the ‘voice’, had ignored the opportunity.
Between June and September of that year, my father died, the family fell apart in bitter wrangling, my car was driven into and written off, I was bitten so badly by a dog that I was hospitalised for twenty-four hours and needed five stitches, I met two people who have since become part of my inner circle – and I was invited to join D’s Lodge.
D’s Lodge is an SOL Lodge – and,when I joined, there were seven of us. Initially, since I had had very little training, I was there as an Upholding Priestess. But,as the years wore on, I became the Priestess of the Western Quarter.
We tried, where possible, to meet once a month – and we marked all the ancient festivals with ritual. Many were held in D’s flat – but we have also worked outdoors: on a beach, at a place with strong Fey presence and at the home of one of the other Lodge members. This member,S, is a member of OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) and used to own a beautiful Grove near her home.
The rituals we did in the Grove were delightful and very moving. Other Druids came along and, since Druids and ritual magicians have a fair amount in common in terms of practices, we were able to create some wonderful rituals.
Because our Lodge came under the general umbrella of SOL, I began to attend SOL weekends twice a year, travelling up to the North in May for Ritual with Purpose, and in November for the Gathering of Light (GOL). The latter is always a lovely event: most of the Lodges in the United Kingdom, the American Lodges and others from around the world, send two representatives and the Lodge Banner. These banners are hung on the walls in the Temple and always look absolutely beautiful.
In 2009, D gave me Dolores’ ‘Your Unseen Power’ course for my birthday. It was utterly fascinating, absorbing, moving and life-changing. It centred around The Tree of Life, and Qabalistic terms; I learnt much about the Hebrew letters associated with each path, about the Sephiroth, about walking the Inner landscapes – and about myselves, both Lower and Higher.
In January 2012, I gained my First Degree Initiation, and red cord in an incredibly moving ceremony.
I finished ‘Your Unseen Power’ at the end of last year – and am now doing the Sword part of the Hallowquest. It is challenging and is bringing all manner of buried nasties to the surface. This is as it should be, but it is incredibly difficult and painful to face.
SOL is an Occult school – and there is a SOL course which many people do.
Last year, Steve Tanham and Sue Vincent (both of whom have been SOL members, and many other things, in the past) set up their own School of Consciousness, The Silent Eye.
I felt drawn to it right from the start – and was one of twenty-two people present at its Birth last April. My post yesterday was my emotional response to this year’s weekend of ritual and bonding.
The Silent Eye teaches through the medium of the Enneagram, and, this year, we enacted the five rituals in the characters of Egyptian gods. I was Sekhmet – and the role was astonishingly accurate in terms of my personal life and sense of being chained and gagged.
Ritual is immensely powerful as a tool for the greater good of group, landscape, country, planet. It is not a game, however, nor something which should be entertained by those who seek personal power or the wounding and destruction of others – though, sad to relate, there are occultists who are drawn into ritual work for very dark purposes indeed. But there is a saying, which I absolutely hold to, that what you send out into the universe in the malign sense will return to you threefold.
Ritual connects us to the land, the seasons, the creatures we share this planet with; it is a way of celebrating the turning points of the year – and, if done properly, of raising the consciousness to a new level.
Ritual magicians come from all the religious groups. It is an interfaith movement. Some people come from Catholic backgrounds, others Rosicrucian. It does not matter what your core religious beliefs are. The important thing is that we all serve the Light – and that stretches across the artificial divides between religions.
Some of us are Craft based: there are Wiccan Lodges, for example; others are more ceremonial, for want of a better word. There are solo practitioners and large lodges with many members. There are those who come from a Druid background, those who are Shamans (and work in the Native American tradition) and many more.
It is, I think, very sad that much of the prejudice directed at occultists comes from media stories of Satanists and sinister cults. These DO exist – and I am not going to pretend they don’t – but judging all ritual magicians by the dark minority is unintelligent and only serves to spread more darkness into our world.
Magic is change. It is an acknowledgement that what we call reality is largely perception, and can shift vastly. Ironically, many of the magical precepts which have been around since the Ancient Egyptians, or even earlier, are now being taken up, and proved to be true, by Quantum Physics! Many people who have an empirical turn of mind pour scorn upon the so-called credulous nature of ritual (and, indeed, religion), and call us gullible and superstitious – whilst at the same time thrilling to the latest scientific discovery in the field of Quantum Theory.
The whole point is this: what we do in ritual goes far beyond our temporal and flawed selves, though we can grow as individuals if we allow that to happen; it connects us to the Global Village, and is an assertion of connection rather than division: it is the WE of humanity rather than the US and THEM.