Considerations & Notes Toward a Cult Devotion to Aradia

Looking at the news today, or any day really, has become difficult and fraught with many competing emotions and even more voices of varying degrees of merit. In part due to the increasing injustices facing the world, some inventive practitioners from different traditions have sought to focus their praxis as a means to better the unfortunate situations we find around us. Not unfair in the least and something I have to admire.

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of enjoying brunch with four such people, dear friends and colleagues, one of whom is one such practitioner whose work has made not insignificant headlines in the public occultism sphere.  Writing at The Modern Traditional Witch, Laura’s “We Are Aradia” has become something of interest to me as a contemporary student in one traditional witchcraft tradition, but also as someone whose own interest in social betterment finds strong intersections with magic.

While much could be said for the veracity of LeLand’s character, approaching Aradia (whether real or imagined) has become something of a welcome detour in my practice. Whether a real or fictional, she can be approached as an interface between contemporary practitioners of magic as an heroic figure representing a composite receptacle for our Mighty Dead. This, of course, is not without merit as an approach as can be seen by the number of practitioners whose devotion to figures such as Solomon, Saint Cyprian, and other Catholic folk saints can attest. Similarly, as discussed in Graveyard Wanderers, one powerful method of attaining magical power is to directly place one’s self under the power of the “Invisibles”, or simply, the Dead.

While approaching the dead of one’s own lineage or known personages is always preferable, this is not always possible and having a composite figure representing a “spiritual court” as commonly referenced in Cuban and Puerto Rican spiritualism becomes a viable method of forming a relationship with such figures. Aradia, then, becomes a spiritual court unto herself representing the many female witches and sorceresses of the past whose work is to liberate us from oppressive power structures.

“In those days there were on earth many rich and many poor. The rich made slaves of all the poor. In those days were many slaves who were cruelly treated; in every palace tortures, in every castle prisoners.

 Many slaves escaped. They fled to the country; thus they became thieves and evil folk. Instead of sleeping by night, they plotted escape and robbed their masters, and then slew them. So they dwelt in the mountains and forests as robbers and assassins, all to avoid slavery.

Diana said one day to her daughter Aradia:

‘Tis true indeed that thou a spirit art,

But thou wert born but to become again

A mortal; thou must go to earth below

To be a teacher unto women and men

Who fain would study witchcraft in thy school.”[1

One method for working with Aradia in this sense would be to dedicate a space to her which one can approach a few times a week, focus on offering prayers, exercising your mediumship skills and communicating with her/them. I personally highly recommend my colleague’s approach at Crossing Sun on Tumblr for a very good model establishing a magical routine, though simply having an image or candle dedicated to her and making a novena practice may equally be desirable, especially considering the intersections between spiritualism, Catholicism and cult veneration of the dead.

To this end, one may obtain a white novena candle and either paint or apply an image of Aradia to it, place it upon one’s ancestor altar, and recite a prayer such as:

“It is true indeed that thou a spirit art,
But thou wert born but to become again
A mortal; thou must go to earth below
To be a teacher unto women and men
Who fain would study witchcraft in thy school.

Holy Aradia, daughter of Diana and Lucifer,
Give me an apt and teachable heart,
That I may learn your socerous arts,
And, in learning them, overcome the wiles
Of evil men and women who would oppress me.”

It is important to spend some time in front of the image, present offerings, and quietly listen for any advice. During this time one might also do devotional reading from LeLand’s Aradia and practice some form of divination such as with a pendulum or scrying. When you are done with your prayers and work, close with your usual prayers if you already have an established ancestor practice, or simply knock three times on the table where you are doing your work.

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[1] Leland, Aradia: or, The Gospel of Witches. 1899.

Initiation

“There is something sacred to common apprehension in the repose of the dead. They seem placed beyond our power to disturb. “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave”… Their remains moulder in the earth. Neither form nor feature is long continued to them. We shrink from their touch, and their sight. To violate the sepulchre therefore for the purpose of unholy spells and operations, as we read of in the annals of witchcraft, cannot fail to be exceedingly shocking. To call up the spirits of the departed, after they have fulfilled the task of life, and are consigned to their final sleep, is sacrilegious.” – Godwin, Lives of the Necromancers.

Two years ago I stepped through the gates of Lakeview on a cold November morning, much like this one, to pay my respects to the departed and to share a cigar and some brandy with one of the founders of my city. Snow was on the ground and I carefully knocked on the grave thrice, sang his name, recited the Pater Noster, Ave and Gloria and lit a cigar and poured brandy on the frozen earth causing the snow to melt in a cruciform shape.

I didn’t know what to expect then, but on my way out of the cemetery I found a twenty dollar bill on the ground, a sign I suppose that the old man heard my request for riches but beyond that, nothing spectral or noticeable. This time would be different.

INITIATION:

One’s introduction to the Dead so as to receive insight and acquire their services.

Thus, may one become a sorcerer. [1]

At the time of this writing, I’ve been involved in the pursuit of wisdom through the medium of occultism for about fifteen years, give or take, and have been fortunate to know many talented adepts and fellow students through the years in many traditions and disciplines. My own practice to this point could be said to be highly syncretistic yet difficult to put into words. I suppose my allergy to titles is probably to blame for this and probably one of the reasons I’ve found it difficult to put into words exactly what it is that I do.

There are many reasons people step onto the path of magic and the lives of the magicians I know are varied and fantastic. I know, for me, it was largely my inexhaustible curiosity that got me started on my path but now that seems to have changed – at least somewhat. For now, my motivation is to live out a narrative that will leave a story for others to follow or, as the twentieth century mythologist Joseph Campbell would say, to “live out my myth.”

In Scandinavian lore, the Wise Ones lived on the edges of social acceptability. They participated equally in village life as well as in the open desolate places haunted by spirits. Things haven’t changed much. Even though I’m very much removed from my rural origins and live in a large metropolitan city, the division between city life and open desolation at the start of the 21st century is much more liminal than one would presuppose and being queer as well as a magician in an age of disenchantment definitely puts me at odds with any kind of social acceptability.

Similarly, in an age when casual agnosticism seems to be the status quo, I refuse to succumb to the banality of prescribed religion or irreligion. Like the Wise Ones, I acknowledge the ecclesiastical year as well as older pantheons which allow me to communicate with the demons of the infernal hierarchies, gods of religions long since abandoned, and the spirits of the land which came before me and will survive long after.

As I walk past the gates, I leave a penny for the keeper of the cemetery, the Kyrkogrim, who in other times would have been connected to the church of a particular graveyard but nowadays in the New World seems to find himself equally at home at the oldest grave in our modern cemeteries. I wait for a moment to receive some indication that I may pass and watch the crucifix of my rosary for any motion. I’m allowed through and make my way along the winding avenues to the grave I visited a year earlier.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I begin and kneel at the tombstone, crossing myself.

“Your sight shall be in my sight, in whose name you rest here… could you, O Holy Ghost give to me of your power, in the name of the Holy Crucified One. Amen.”[2]

Though my eyes were closed, I saw an intense blinding light perhaps like that that fell upon the apostles at Pentecost or maybe like that seen by the dying as they transition from this world to the next. The work done, I see the faint outlines of human forms above their graves, like mist rising from the streets after a summer’s rain. The matter of the rite followed by the confirmation through the form of the ritual complete, I now step into a new mythic world, that of de kloka or Wise Ones.

I hesitate in any real way to refer to myself as particularly “wise”, but for the time being this is the reality that I have embraced and will share with you my experiences as time allows.

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[1] Johnson, Tom. The Graveyard Wanderers. Society of Esoteric Endeavour, 2013

[2] Ibid.

The First Post

IT would be easy, I suppose, to narrate my story like Oliver Twist and treat you to the place where I was born, and of the circumstances attending my birth; my growth, education, board and how I came to be the person I am after all my adventures and misadventures, but that would be impossible and perhaps a little tedious.

Suffice it to say, I don’t know the circumstances of my birth nor how Fate seemed it kind to fortunately place me in the loving hands of a family of farmers in the Puyallup River Valley who themselves were the children and grandchildren of homesteaders from Northern Europe, primarily. What I can tell you is about the beauty of growing up in a community – perhaps one of the last of its kind in my part of the world – where everyone knew everyone and everyone’s story. I grew up raising cattle, playing in the barns and cabins built by my maternal grandparents, and attending to the acres of raspberries and other crops we raised alongside Native American and Latino day laborers.

I went to the same school as my parents and my brothers before me. Many of my teachers were either former classmates of my parents and also had the pleasure and dismay of teaching my older brothers – depending on who’s telling the story at the time and how many beers have passed since we gathered around the bonfire blazing high with the limbs of corn and bramble branches with a healthy dose of gasoline thrown on top for show. These circumstances and many others may be unremarkable to some, perhaps you’ve experienced them yourself. This is of no matter because to me it was magic and that’s where my story begins.

After the fires died and my parents and their friends adjourned to the kitchen to warm themselves from the crisp Autumn cold, I stayed by the dying firelight and watched the shadows play off the cracked windows of the barn as the coyotes emerged from the grasses in the lowlands where the river used to flow before it was levied in order to provide farmers more place to field their livestock. In the dying firelight I saw sparks dance like miniature people rising toward the stars and descend into a labyrinth of red and black and gray. As the stars came out, I saw bodies wrap themselves in mist and congregate row after row in the berries and share stories with one another in words that I couldn’t hear.

When it came time for me to go to bed, I’d smell roses in the room where my grandmother spent the last years of her life with us as her body faded away and remember the times we’d spend praying the rosary and watching television while she smoked her Malibu thins and drank beer. I’d also remember stories of my uncle John, whom I never met, but probably would have liked if I knew him when he was alive. I also remember rushing past my the room where my great grandfather lived when I had to go to the bathroom at night because he honestly hated kids – good thing he was dead and would politely just close the door.

“The improvements that have been effected in natural philosophy have by degrees convinced the enlightened part of mankind that the material universe is everywhere subject to laws, fixed in their weight, measure and duration, capable of the most exact calculation, and which in no case admit of variation and exception… in the infancy and less mature state of human knowledge. The chain of causes and consequences was yet unrecognized; and events perpetually occurred, for which no sagacity that was then in being was able to assign an original. Hence men felt themselves habitually disposed to refer many of the appearances with which they were conversant to the agency of invisible intelligences; sometimes under the influence of a benignant disposition, sometimes of malice, and sometimes perhaps from an inclination to make themselves sport of the wonder and astonishment of ignorant mortals.”[i]

I don’t pretend to know how I came to magic, but I knew what it was – it was in the change of seasons, the agricultural cycles we followed, raising cattle from calf to steer, chicken from egg to hen, and all the stories of how my mother divined the names of me and my siblings’ by birth order with the aid of a Ouija board and pendulum. It was also in the apocryphal stories of a young monk who fell to his death and haunted what would become my alma mater. It was being taught by a large Native American woman how her people greeted the day and made offerings to the day. It was also in books that I stole from Barnes & Nobles that promised ancient wisdom and symbols to effect change on the face of reality. It was also singing Christmas carols with family and friends year, after year, after year and trips to Pike Place Market or going to the Washington Coast and seeing the sun rise and fall over the Pacific.

When I started my studies in magic, I knew it all. Not that I was some Merlin-like prodigy by any stretch of the imagination – hardly that at all – what I mean to say is that I was an unusually bright child with a penchant for tall tales and insatiable curiosity and wouldn’t shy away from causing mischief if it would suit my mercurial impishness or attitude problems. I suppose that’s why I ended up making the school bully get hit by a car, breaking his legs and hips, with the use of my mother’s sewing needles, a chicken heart and a heavily redacted ritual to the Horned God and Lady compliments of Cunningham [ii]and Leland[iii].

As I grew up and my family got the internet, I would spend hours researching whatever I could find on magic, folklore, and mythology. There wasn’t much back then, but there was Hermetic.com, hours of porn and learning the hard way the importance of making browser history disappear at the stroke of midnight. But then I digress – I’m a sucker for storytelling and thank you for your indulgences. I’ll need those when I go to join the ranks of the dead (hopefully a very long time away from now).

SO, why should this blog interest you?

Well, if you’ve found this blog it’s highly likely that you’re probably a magician of some stripe or one of my friends who’ve been pestering me to get back to writing in a more focused manner.

If you’re the former, I hope that in sharing my observations and engaging in dialogue we might be able to inform our practices and respectfully critique our experiences in a courteous manner that is mutually beneficial to us as individuals as well as to the benefit of the level of discourse in the greater community.

If you’re a friend of mine whose been pestering me to get back to writing in a more focused manner, I apologize in advance for anything I write that might disappoint your estimation of my abilities, magical and mental prowess and penchant for shenanigans.

If it so happens you’re both, I think you’ll enjoy my writing and musings and occasional snarky comments on Ye Arte of Social Magic. In all seriousness, though, whether you’re a practicing magician or merely interested in it from an academic perspective (or secretly writing slash fic about me and need fodder to build a more believable character – in which case please share!) I imagine there will be something to delight and intrigue.

By and large, my esoteric interests lie in the history and phenomenology of magic from the Antique to Contemporary era. I’ll leave it for you to decide what this means, but in practice it largely means reading a lot of old texts like a 21st Century scholar and abusing them like a 12th Century renegade cleric. I’m primarily concerned with the intersections between necromancy and the grimoire genre as well as their influences and confluences into historical and contemporary spiritualism in both Old and New Worlds. On occasion I might veer off the beaten road and into other territories such as American folkloric witchcraft, pre-Christian Scandinavian religion, Chaos magic, lodge ceremonial, and indigenous or traditional practices of the New World, but for the most part what you’ll be reading are the musings of a very Cascadian, would-be Wise One following the paths of the magicians and graveyard wanderers who came before me and hopefully leading those who will come after down an interesting path.

 

[i] Godwin, William. Lives of the Necromancers: Or, An Account of the Most Eminent Persons in Successive Ages, Who Have Claimed for Themselves, or to Whom Has Been Imputed by Others, the Exercise of Magical Power. London: F.J. Mason, 1834.

[ii] (Sorry) Cunningham, Scott. Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1993.

[iii] Leland, Charles Godfrey. Aradia; Or, The Gospel of the Witches. London: D. Nutt, 1899.