My friends have been engaged in a book club, which matters of schedule and the annoyances of life prevented me from attending. I'm madder than a box of shaken snakes about that. But I read the relevant chapter on the day of discussion and considered the questions on the Evil Minion's Trothwy was kind enough to email me.
As if my life couldn't be *more* obsessed with this book than it has been for nearly twenty years, I enjoyed jumping back in it, knowing that my beloved friends were doing the same.
This book and I go way back. It gave a very young would-be Witch everything he could possibly want in a "paperback, primer for Witches"; love spells, invocations, recipes, methods for conjuring demons, curses invoking the Devil, secret jewelry and Witch Signs. I Fucking Loved It.
But, it flavored my disposition. It made me something of an elitist, and incredibly judgmental about what "my people" sometimes get up to, or make broad statements about what it is "we" believe.
I look at the "Pagan community" sometimes and I find myself thinking "I really don't fucking belong here."
I didn't become a Witch for political reasons, or because of feminism, or nature, or even an initial desire to worship Pagan gods. The Gods came with, and that was groovy. But, no. I became a Witch because, well, I wanted to be a Witch.
Enter Mastering Witchcraft, Stage Left.
In Chapter One, the very first exercise involves severing your ties to previous religious and doctrinal systems, including political ones, by making a token gesture of blasphemy as a form of meditation. For three nights, you light a candle, recite the Lord's Prayer backwards, and then blow out the candle. Now, when you're a 9 year old kid, raised on Catholicism and horror movies, the notion of saying The Lord's Prayer backwards can be slightly daunting, even a bit scary. And, I must confess, just a wee bit satisfying, if you have a blasphemous soul like I do.
So there you are, new to Witchcraft, lighting a candle and preparing to say The Lord's Prayer backwards, and your imagination runs wild. Will demons crawl up through the floor and drag you away? Will Jehovah Himself strike you down, murder your family, smite your orchards, and all that other fun stuff right out of the Old Testament? Are you unknowingly making a pact with the Devil Himself? Are you secretly hoping all of the above will happen because you always thought the Devil was kinda sexy?
I was a *highly* imaginative child. And that's the key reason for this token gesture of blasphemy.
It's not much to do with God, or the Devil, or even real blasphemy. This token gesture is meant to remove the shackles from your thinking, to wake up the deep mind, and to bring those childhood fantasies and fears to the surface, so that they can be sharpened, honed, and used to fuel the magic you'll be doing later.
And so I did it.
After you blow out the candle, saying the words "So Mote It Be" for perhaps the first time in life, you're to sit in darkness for awhile, letting your fears well up and your imagination run wild. It was scary, and thrilling in the way that doing something you shouldn't always is.
The Lord's Prayer meant nothing to me as a kid, and it means little to me now. You can't blaspheme something you don't consider holy. But it was the first time in my life that someone suggested that I had control of my thinking, that I was free to think and learn about whatever I pleased, that I could render ideas many consider to be unquestioningly powerful and authoritative (orthodox religion, conventional thinking, nationalism) completely useless and silly.
If that's not changing consciousness at will, then nothing is.
It's certainly not a politically correct book. It has some *really* intense curses in it that I'm willing to bet more have performed than will admit to. I'm quite fond of it's Barrabas Spell and The Grand Operation of Bewitchment. It's one of the first such books to suggest modern minded Witches focus more on honest lust magic instead of confusing their desires with "love." It's conjuration of the demon Vassago differs from those found in ceremonial texts, including an altered sigil. It offers rituals of necromancy, as a form of divination and in connection with love magic. It suggests methods for raising storms. It doesn't demoralize the practitioner, or make you feel guilty for having angry thoughts. For such a "basic primer" it has a weight and seriousness that most books that came after it seriously lack.
As Paganism continues to court mainstream approval, doing inter-faith work and trying to get into bed with Christianity, a book like this *really* makes it difficult to convince your Baptist neighbors that you practice a peaceful (saccharine), womyn-centric, environmental religion and don't curse people.
I wish there were more books like it.