Tag Archives: Mastering Witchcraft discussion

We consult the oracles – Chapter 3


Next, is Chapter 3 – Divination.  Hyperion, accomplished diviner and founder of the Unnamed Path – a path for Men-who-love-men, as revealed by their Ancestors – answers the discussion questions and shares his insights with us.

Hyperion’s background includes work as a Priest with the Druidic Craft of the Wise, as a shaman, and as a priest of Shangó.   To (literally!) hear more from Hyperion, check out UnnamedPath.com or visit his online store of magical products at ConjureDoctor.com.

For your reading ease, bits from Mastering Witchcraft are quoted below, with discussion points.  The bolded bits are Hyperion’s responses.


hapter Three, in which our Hero
calls upon the aid of Mercury,
fashions Devices for Seeing the Unseen,
and conjures Demons and Shades


“Before embarking on any magical operation, perform a divination (a) to diagnose the true nature of the situation, and/or (b) to determine the likelihood of success of the particular magical operation you have decided to employ.  There is no point … in employing a blast of countermagic against some imaginary enemy when in fact a relatively simple amulet of beneficence may be all that is required.”

How important is it to consult an oracle or perform divination before doing magical work?

Divination or oracular work is a necessary and integral part of any kind of magical work. It is akin to looking through a scope before firing off a rifle shot.

Divination should always be performed before magical work so that you can ascertain all of the factors affecting a situation, flesh out the known details, uncover unknown factors at play, and finally used to determine the predicted outcome of your spell work.

Casting a spell without divination is akin to shooting your rifle while pointing in the general direction of your target. Sometimes you’ll hit it, but often you’ll be off the mark. Occasionally you’ll hit a bystander.

“…the operations of divination have always been conducted by means of contact with a power which is symbolized by the astrological symbol of Mercury.  The Greeks called this power Hermes, the Egyptians Thoth, the Scandinavians Odin, the early Anglo-Saxons Woden … The Saxons knew him by the name “Earendel, the Morning Star.  The witch knows him by the name ‘Herne.’”

Can a non-witch become as skilled at divination as a witch or occultist?  Does the type of divination matter?

A diviner’s capacity and skill are wholly unrelated to his initiatory or spiritual path. Some of this world’s finest diviners are people of popular faith (Christianity, Judaism or Islam).

What determines a diviner’s skill are two things – his knowledge of the tool and the relationship he has with his guides/deity. To think that divination is solely the realm of the witch or occultist is arrogant. There are many housewives who can divine the sex of a child with a needle and thread more accurately than anyone calling upon Hermes. There are tea house servers who can read more in a cup of leaves than anyone invoking the names of angels in the Enochian tradition.

To be skillful at divination you must be knowledgeable in the tool and have solid relationships with your guides or gods. That’s all.

The type of divination does matter, however, in cases of access. If it is a divination tool that requires the diviner to be an initiate – like the diloggún of West Africa (cowrie shell divination) then it is the initiation that allows the diviner access and license to use the tool. Their skill with the tool (once they have access to it) is then completely dependent on their knowledge of the tool and their relationships with their deities – confirming my original statement.

When you do a divination, where do the answers come from?  Do they always come from the same place?

That’s an excellent question that I think a lot of novice diviners get hung up on. They doubt the source of the information they are receiving and consequently throw themselves out of the trance-like state required to receive and transmit the guidance they are receiving to the client.

Answers typically come from several sources:

1) Ancestors or spirits of the dead,

2) Guides or other Upper world beings,

3) Gods or Goddesses,

4) Your Higher Self, or

5) Your Shadow Self (gut instinct).

All of these are equally valid and all of them apply. To place guidance from a God as “more valid” than that of an ancestor is a terrible mistake.

Once an oracle is properly opened with prayer, and a proper attitude of humility and reverence, for a sincere need, the answers will always be applicable and valid regardless of where they come from.

“Keep your completed square in a new box or wrapped in a clean linen or silk cloth.”

How do you store your divinatory tools?  Why?

Well ultimately it really depends on the tool.

For my tarot cards a simple silk pouch is sufficient. I use these on an almost daily basis with my clients. They have no power in and of themselves; the power is within me. So the pouch is simply to keep them in good condition.

To attribute some kind of mystical power your cards is blasphemous, for the truth and power is within yourself – you are a divine being. The cards are paper with ink printed on them – nothing more.

My set of bones I use in throwing the bones are kept in a wooden bowl as high up as I possibly can place them in my house. In my case that’s the top of my bookshelf. This is a traditional practice where “the bones” are kept in a non-common place: either on the floor or way up high.

Each bone has a unique energy and tie to an ancestral significance or animal medicine. They therefore are treated with the utmost respect and are kept in a unique sacred place.

My cowrie shells are consecrated parts of my shrines from the Lukumí faith (Santería). These are irreplaceable objects and act as the mouths and ears of the deities in that religion. They are kept in a bag with a tie in a secret place where no one but I can find them – so that no one could ever steal them.

Would you let others handle or use your divinatory tools?  Why or why not?

Yes. Part of a consultation, regardless of the tools, is that the client has to interact with the divination tool. This allows his or her spirit the opportunity to partake in the random shuffling of the tool.

The random element has to be present for it to be divination – otherwise it is either an oracle of seership or scrying. I let my clients shuffle my tarot cards. If they are over the phone I riffle through the cards until they tell me to stop so they can control the randomness of the event.

I let my clients toss the bowl of bones to mix them up as they pray.

For the cowrie shells, I place the shells in the hands of my client so that they can pray to the gods of that tradition for guidance and clarity; throughout the reading they will mix two items in their hands and separate them and I will pick a hand to determine yes or no answers.

Letting a client participate in the divination is not only critical to the process so that their will and soul are engaged in the determination of the random element, but it also engages them on a deeply spiritual level so that they know they are not just a bystander; they are a participant.

“Basically the rune sticks consist of four flat slats of fruit-wood – apple, pear, cherry, plum, hazel, rowan, or any other wood if you cannot obtain these.  But they must be wood.”

“You should carry them about with you for a period of time before you use them to charge them with your magnetism, or witch power.”

Why fruit wood?  Barring fruit wood, why wood?

The rune sticks are a divination tool that draw their meaning and symbolism directly from the world tree. The old legend says that Odin (Wotan, O∂in, etc.) hung himself voluntarily from the World Tree until he received the vision and enlightenment of the runes. Therefore it is important for the runes to be made of wood – it is where they were born and it links them directly to the World Tree.

The reason fruit wood is used instead of any old fruit is that the World Tree is typically depicted as a fruit bearing tree – be it ash or oak – not a conifer. Fruit trees feed humanity, and fruit bearing plants have an intimate connection with mammals. Without us they would not be as biologically successful as they are. Animals eat the fruit and carry the seeds in their guts until they release them at a later location. Animals spread fruit bearing tree seeds better than wind-born seeds.

How dependent are divinatory tools on their proper materials and methods of preparation?

I think the answer to this is completely dependent on the divination system.

In the case of runes they are tied inextricably to the material. The same goes for bones or cowrie shells. But other systems aren’t as tied to the material, like geomancy, horary astrology, tarot, i-ching, or pendulum. The symbols and patterns in these systems are what really matter more than the specific lore tied to the divination system. As long as you can generate the symbols and patterns that’s all that really matters.

In any case fanaticism and extremism in constructing any magical tool puts way too much power in the hands of the physical world versus the spiritual relationships and energy that are really determining the success of the reading.

“…write out your question on the paper provided with the pen of art.”

Do you write out your question before undertaking a reading?  Why or why not?

This depends on the divination system.

In geomancy you want to write out the question because the specific wording of the question can really affect how you read the outcome.

In other systems like tarot or bones it’s not as important to do so because you’re not fishing for a black and white yes/no answer, you’re getting details surrounding an issue.

Creating a “special pen and paper” to write out the question is a silly waste of time. I say focus more on your relationship with your guides and Gods and you’ll get a much more accurate and powerful answer in your reading than they guy with the fancy unicorn horn pen with dove’s blood ink.

Do you keep a record of your readings?

As a professional reader and rootworker, I absolutely MUST keep a record of my readings. I need to be able to go back over a client’s history and know what I’ve recommended for them in the past as well as document what spell work I’ve done for them so that I don’t end up asking the same questions over and over again.

It also gives me a chance to see if they client followed the advice I said and how it affected the magical outcome of the work I did for them.

Do you read regularly, or only at need?  Does either affect the efficacy of your readings?

I read regularly. I give about 5 to 10 client readings a week. I read for myself about once a month.

Of course this affects the efficacy of my readings because I am so familiar with the tool that it’s like reading a newspaper column for me. I can even picture the cards laid out in my head when someone names them off and interpret off of the image in my head (with no cards before me) because I’m that familiar with them.

Think of a divination system as an alphabet. The more familiar you are with the letters the faster you can compose your thoughts and say what you want to say. The same goes with divination.

“…divinations will always go better if you use your square of Mercury first.”

“Say, as you do so:  ‘In thy name Herne, Lord of the Crossroads…’”

            Do you ‘ritualize’ your divination?  If so, how?

This again depends on the divination system. All divinations I perform involve me connecting with my gods and guides and then asking for assistance and clarity before I begin.

Some divination systems (like casting the bones or diloggún) have lengthy prayers where I invoke the presence of the ancestors and rattle off my lineage going back as I can track.

Tarot has far less ritual involved. I just connect to my higher sources and start shuffling the cards as I picture the client’s situation.

“Having now assembled the primary instruments of the greater divinations, you are ready to perform one such operation yourself.  There are basically two varieties of these, one being the conjuration and communication with nonhuman entities, and the other dealing with the spirits or shades of the dead…”

Have you ever conjured a nonhuman spirit to answer questions you couldn’t answer through other means?  Would you?

I have connected with the ancestors of the dead, my higher or shadow self, my guides and my gods/goddesses when doing divination. Anything outside of that is too volatile of an energy to expect clear, dependable guidance.

Conjuring a djinn, goetic spirit or demon to perform divination is ridiculous. Not only are they unstable and undependable entities but they are too risky to summon in the first place for a question easily answered with a set of cards or a pendulum. That’s just hubris.

“The summoning of the dead has always been considered by witches as among some of the most dangerous operations in the book, strangely enough, sometimes even more so than the summoning of demons.  The truth of the matter is that it can be an extremely taxing operation to perform if the motivation is anything other than love…”

Have you ever conjured the dead for matters of intelligence?  Would you?

Absolutely. It is a common thing and isn’t anywhere as dangerous as conjuring a demon contrary to what your book says. Human spirits of the dead are easily controlled, dispelled and are usually willing to work with you especially if you strike a deal with them and offer them libations up front.

The spirits of the dead – especially your blood ancestors – are some of your most dependable and powerful allies in magic. Anyone who is afraid of working with the dead is afraid of magic – period.

I’ve consulted spirits of the dead for guidance, magical assistance with a situation, for details and information surrounding an issue or for assistance when dealing with negative people that need to be bound up from hurting others.

Thinking upon the Dumb Supper, in which you can summon a future shade, would it be possible/ethical to summon the etheric essence of a living person or animal who witnessed something you need to know?

If the person is still living, their conscious will and the threads tying their etheric substances to their physical body are far more powerful than any conjuration or summoning you can ever craft as a witch. So I say it is not only impossible but ridiculous.

It would be better for you to summon your ancestors or guides to look into it and then report back what they discover. Not only that, but the purpose of the Dumb Supper is to commune with the spirits of those who have departed in that year, to offer them food and drink and commune with them one last time before they pass on to the Underworld and rest forever. To use that moment of honor for your personal petty agenda is reprehensible in my opinion. It defiles the occasion.


Filed under Mastering Witchcraft

More discussions pop up

I see more posts on Mastering Witchcraft have popped up.  Teasers included below.  For the full discussion, follow the links:

Rick Derks at Howling at the Crossroad posts about his experiences with the book:

“My first reaction, having only been exposed to Wicca at that point was ‘This isn’t Witchcraft! He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.’ Then I realized this was what I really wanted Witchcraft to be, and I gave it a shot.”

Raven at Besom, Book and Wand shares his thoughts:

“Mastering Witchcraft is a rare gem, a Witch’s “how to” manual written way before the glut of fluffy, anything-goes McWicca books that flooded the market in the late ’80s and early ’90s. This is not a book about a lovely matriarchal Goddess religion, and it doesn’t encourage you to make up whatever you feel like and call it Witchcraft. This book is good, functional, old-fashioned Witchcraft of the kind Witches ACTUALLY practiced…”

Sarah Lawless promotes the discussion, adding:

“Paul Huson‘s Mastering Witchcraft: A Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks & Covens, originally released in 1970, is a classic masterpiece of witchcraft publishing. If you’ve made it this far along the path without reading it (egads, that’s like saying you’ve never read Doreen Valiente!), I urge you to go out and procure a copy immediately.”

I encourage you all to consider the discussion points and post what you think, either in UsedKey’s comments section or in your own webspace.

If you do link back to UsedKey promoting the discussing, email me at trothwy at live dot com so I can put your name in the hat (times three) for the chance to win an autographed copy of Mr. Huson’s book.


Filed under Mastering Witchcraft

We prepare for witchwork – Chapter 2

And now we come to Chapter 2 – Preliminary Preparations.  Sharing his insights with us is Harold Roth, magical practitioner and proprietor of Alchemy Works.  Mr. Roth is also in the process of writing a book on growing and using witching herbs.

Alchemy Works is bursting with oils, incenses and philters which have been developed and blended with Mr. Roth’s exquisite detail and attention to the magical history, properties and effects of the ingredients.  He also offers his handmade traditional talismans, as well as seeds, growing information and herb lore.

Mr. Roth mentioned he would gladly discuss his responses further, and answer any questions that may arise about them.  Post them in the comments section, and he’ll be happy to answer.

For more by and about Harold Roth, visit him at his blog The Alchemist’s Garden or his online shop Alchemy Works.

For your reading ease, bits from Mastering Witchcraft are quoted below, with discussion points.  The bolded bits are Harold’s responses.


hapter Two, in which Our Hero urges us
to make a Name for ourselves, cast a
type of Boiler Tank, Get Naked (or not),
and “Tool Up.”


“Assuming you have embarked on your career as a practitioner of the Black Arts, you will have to take a new, magical name to supplement your old, mundane one.”

“The witch name is basically designed to be an indication of the true nature of you as you really are deep down!”

Is it possible to work effective magic without a witch name?

Yes. A person’s given name is just fine, IMO. I don’t use a magical name, even though I chose one years ago. I thought I really needed one, but I have never actually used it for anything.

How widely do you use your witch name? What are the ramifications?

I never use my magical name. It is an unused tool, and as such, I think it has no power. I sometimes have used my Hebrew name in rituals. This I think actually has more power precisely because it is a recognized name in one community in a particular context. I guess you could say it’s a spiritual name, because its purpose is to identify me in a spiritual community. So it has more power to me than the magical name I chose and haven’t used. But honestly, I have not found much use of any name. I feel like the spirits know who we are. I have this idea that they can identify us fairly easily (if they want to).

Some witches believe to know the “true name” of something/someone gives power over the named.  How much power do you feel is given over to those who know your witch name?  Does knowing your legal name give folks the same amount of power over you?  Why, or why not?

Well, knowing someone’s social security number gives someone a great deal of power over someone else in the mundane world, so I can imagine that knowing someone’s name in witchcraft or even their legal name would give someone power over another in the magical world. But I don’t think it is that important. I think it is more important to have in one’s mind the image of the person, their themness, their who-they-areness. Even better if you have an item of theirs.

Is it possible to change your witch name?  What are the effects of doing so?

I have not changed my witch name, but I have changed my legal name, and it had profound effects. I would imagine that changing a magical name could have the same possibilities. I don’t see why one couldn’t grow out of one name and into another.

“All witches and warlocks usually possess items that are often known by occult ritualists as jewels … They usually serve three purposes … providing a means of recognition between members of different covens; a talismanic ‘link’ with the collective mind of their own group … and third, sometimes as a means of ‘Fascination,’ that is to provide a reflective surface of the same sort often made use of by hypnotists when they wish to throw their subjects into a trance.”

As the pentagram and other symbols of witchcraft become more widely recognized, do they become less or more useful as jewels of recognition?

I think they are helpful, although I am aware that some people will wear a pentagram, for instance, just to look outré to their schoolmates. But does the image of the Goat of Mendes being sported by every wannabe badass high-schooler diminish it? I don’t think so. I think it remains a powerful image. For me, more often the pentagram has become a Wiccan symbol, which is a whole nother ball of wax than plain witchcraft. It’s not a symbol that I personally make use of for that reason. Not that it’s no longer powerful due to its use, but that to me, it has become a Wiccan symbol, and I am not a Wiccan.

Does wearing a witch jewel daily lessen or heighten its magical effect?

I would think that continued contact with one’s body would heighten the magical power of any object. I used to be in the habit of wearing rings for magical purposes, especially rings dedicated to particular planetary energies, and I know that the more I wore them, the more powerful they became. They seemed to store quite a bit more energy, to the point where I quit wearing them except when doing rituals, because I felt like they had too much of an effect.

“Many practitioners claim that the best way to work magic is the traditional way: nude.  Others, equally tradition-minded, claim that this is not necessarily the case … The rationale behind nudity … is that clothing inhibits the emanation of your witch power.”

Does working magic naked affect the outcome?  How so?

It can. There is something incredibly thrilling about working naked outside on a windy, rainy black night. It seems easier to build energy. But most of the magic I do is clothed. I think clothing cannot inhibit the emanation of power, but not having it on can make you feel both more powerful and less so. Depends on the circumstances.

“In order to perform any act of successful ritual witchcraft, you must have your set of basic traditional working tools…. The magical act is a cumulative one.  You start from scratch with newly purchased substances, ritually purify or demagnetize them with salt water, and incense, and then recharge them with your concentrated witch power.  From these charged substances, you then fashion your implements, and with these implements, you cast your first spells…. Buy, without bargaining over the price …”

Some witches argue that a kitchen knife can be a household tool during the day, and an athame in circle.

Not in my world. I could more easily pick up a stick and use it for a magical purpose than to use a kitchen knife. I think of it this way—we use a kitchen knife like it’s our slave. We don’t work with its spirit. We don’t cosset it. We don’t imbue it with energy. We throw it in the drawer or it sits in the sink with the dirty dishes or we use it to crack open a jar and it gets nicked and dulled. We don’t ask its permission or aid, and generally we don’t treat it with respect. This is not the way to treat a magical tool, IMO. A magical tool should want to help you, if that makes sense. Maybe I have too utilitarian an attitude towards kitchen implements.

For purposes of magic, do separate witch tools work better than tools in mundane use?  How so?  Why not?

I think so, but I also have few witch tools. One thing I remember from when I first got interested in magic was Aleister Crowley describing how he would banish by using his thumb in the “fig” position (British fuck you symbol). I thought this was a great idea and I have always banished nasties that way. OTOH, I have used a particular wand I carved to send out negative energy when it is called for. I think it works better than using my hands. It felt like it was a focus. Like a laser. I would not use it for any mundane purpose.

Would such tools need to be consecrated before each use?

Yes, in whatever way you consider consecration to be done.  I like to use incense or rub the item with herbs.

Why would it be important to not bargain over the price of an item intended for magical use?

I think this comes from the idea of not being cheap. If you are cheap with your magic—not frugal, I think that’s different—than it is like you are not giving it your all. You have more important things to devote your money to, like your cable bill or music downloads or some new clothes, etc. That doesn’t mean you have to spend big or even spend at all on magic tools. I think tools you make or get from the woods or even your yard or have the capacity to be more powerful than a purchased tool, especially when I see some of the wands I see for sale that look like junk. I don’t know how people can do magic with some of the stuff I see.

Does marking a ritual tool make it more effective for purposes of working magic?

Anything you do to a tool to make it more particular for the task will, IMO, make it more effective. Marking, censing, washing, rubbing, etc.

In Mastering Witchcraft, the directions for preparing an Athame are much more elaborate than for the other tools — mix drops of our own blood into the  consecration water, temper the blade (heat it, then plunge it into water), magnetize the blade, bury it point down in earth for three days and.  Why is this tool different?

Probably because it is essentially a tool of protection, on the one hand, so you want such a tool to be especially powerful, But also because as I recall, knives and swords were thought to have a possibly bloodthirsty history which had to be cleansed away before they were used for magic, otherwise the user might be harmed—as if the blade, in fact, had a will of its own that came about because of its past uses.

“To those familiar with Cabalistic sorcery, the magic circle is generally viewed as a means of defence against hostile spirit entities; to the witch, however, though it may serve this purpose … it has a far more important function … to serve as a lens to focus the witch power…. A magical boiler tank in which the steam is compressed in order to channel it”

How does a cast circle feel to you, personally?

I do not cast a circle with an athame. I use a modified version of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram to draw up energy in and around me and/or to clear a space of bad stuff prior to and after doing magic. I guess you could say that the ritual serves as a lens to focus power, but I think of it as more a drawing up of power that then fills the magic worker and can be directed to a task. 

Are all cast circles similar, or is each one different?  Why?

As mentioned, some people use circles for protection when working with demons. I have not worked with demons, so I don’t know.

“You must [move] in a clockwise direction (known as deosil to witches) always turning to the right?

Why move deosil?

Some would argue that deosil would be for working with positive energies or rituals for protection, money, love and widdershins with negative energies or cursing. I do not believe that things are that clear cut. I usually go widdershins if I am doing any ritual action because I feel closer to more chthonic entities like Hermes, and to me, widdershins is the underworld direction.

What would happen if you moved right, but spun left?

You could do such an action to build energy, IMO, like winding yarn on a spindle.

“Try to keep all your magical things together, preferably locked away in a safe place”

Why together?  Why locked away?

I think it’s a good idea to keep them together and if not locked away, at least put away. I keep mine in an old record cabinet I got at a used furniture store (and tarot cards in a separate wooden box). I consider that by being together, their energy is less likely to be negatively affected by things around them. Just feels like a good idea. I also keep them put away because I would not want someone else handling certain of the implements I use, like my ritual clothing. It feels too private. Not so much a magical concern as a private one. This is even though I felt perfectly okay about keeping a magical staff outside by the side door, where it was regularly seen by strangers and friends alike. I felt that staff was impervious to anything. And yet what happened to it? It fell and cracked in two. J

Do you allow others to handle your magical tools?  Why or why not?

I let people shuffle and cut my tarot cards. I would not even show them some things, like ritual garments. I guess with the ritual garments, I feel like it is too personal an exposure. I remember when I saw a photo of Aaron Leitch in his Abramelin robes how I thought he was quite brave to have such a picture taken and then up on the net. I have sometimes seen folks in their ritual garments looking foolish. So there’s that. But even though I would not mind if someone borrowed an item of personal clothing, with ritual clothing, I would feel like the item would be compromised magically. I would never thenceforth feel it was quite all mine. Probably a silly superstition. It has not come up.


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We take our first steps – Chapter 1

And now, Jason Miller of Strategic Sorcery has very kindly agreed to share his knowledge and perspective on Chapter 1 – First Steps.

Jason Miller, also known as Inominandum, is well-known teacher, author and a sorceror’s sorcerer.  His search for the seeds of magical arte have taken him to New Orleans to study Hoodoo, Europe to study Witchcraft and Ceremonial Magick, and Nepal to study Tantra.  Miller is a member of the Chthonic Ouranian Temple and the Sangreal Sodality, as well as an initiated Tantrika in the Nyingma and Bon lineages of Tibet.  His published works include “The Sorcerer’s Secrets, Strategies in Practical Magick” and “Protection and Reversal Magick.” 

For more on Mr. Miller, visit his blog, Strategic Sorcery or for details on his works and teachings, check out his website Inominandum.com

For your reading ease, bits from Mastering Witchcraft are quoted below, with discussion points.  The bolded bits are Jason’s responses.


hapter One, in which Our Hero makes
a Token Gesture, encourages us to Pray
to the Moon, discourages us from
“charging for It,” and teaches us How to Tell Time


“… the time-honoured tradition of repeating the so-called Lord’s Prayer backwards …  Whether you are or were a practicing Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Mohammedan … make no difference at all.  As long as you are living in a ‘Christian’ country, the gesture is most effective.  Just a simple loosening of the mundane knot – a process of blessed unbinding.”

Is there any benefit to ritually severing old religious ties before forming new ones?

There can be, especially if you saw your old religion as repressive. I never saw Christianity as a repressive force in my life, quite the opposite in fact. It was never forced on me. I had to ask to go to church, and when I did I had a very liberal minister that even gave me a book on Tarot.

I did eventually perform Huson’s ritual and felt a certain freedom of thought and the freedom to explore other religions as a consequence, and I certainly think it was an empowering experience. 

Will doing so truly ‘unbind’ the practitioner, even if they aren’t Christian?

It won’t completely unbind them, but it can help. I suppose it could also set off spiritual crisis in people that are not ready for that step, but hey magic can be dangerous.  

Is saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards disrespectful?  Why?  Why not?

It really depends upon the intent. If you think that you are doing something to mock or belittle another religion, then yes. If you are doing it to free yourself from repressive patterns then no.  The way Huson writes the ritual it is clearly a private and personal matter, not something done for public audience, so I would say no, it is not disrespectful the way it is written. 

“The more emotional and deeply knotted the roots of your secret visions are, the more potent will they be to effect the working of your charms.”

Why does a spell work?  Is it the emotions and intent behind a spell which makes the magic work, or the materials and words?

All that and more. A terrible mistake that a lot of modern witches make is thinking that they have isolated one model by which magic works. Many claim the materials don’t matter because it is all in the mind, but I completely disagree, people did not painstakingly record traditions of herbal and material magic for centuries because it did not matter. The words, the materials, the mindset, the spirits… it all matters. That is not to say that you cannot replace elements or even do without elements on occasion, but they all matter and impact the work.  

Do you, personally, have to feel strongly about circumstances in order to work magic to change them?  Or can you stir up an appropriate emotion from your own memories, then “transfer” that emotion to the work at hand?

I work for clients all the time with good results.  

“You must begin to assert yourself; it doesn’t matter on precisely what, but generally… To use it disinterestedly at first is the best way to begin, so concentrate on inconsequential things that you normally wouldn’t give a fig about, and before you embark on them, become aware of the fact that you are now switching on your magical will.”

Can you develop a stronger will, or are you stuck with what you’re born with?

Yes of course the will can be strengthened and developed.  

Is it possible to “switch” magical will on or off?   Benefits?  Drawbacks?

There is no such thing as the magical will, there is just the will. As you develop it and get used to using it to manifest results, you need to learn to integrate it into your life. 

“…as a witch [you] must never break your word …. You are trying to cultivate a state of mind which you can switch on at will, whereby … whatever you say is going to come true.  In this case, the words of the spell.”

Is it possible to “lie by omission” and still be work effective spells?

It is possible to lie outright and perform magic. The concept of breaking your word is about breaking a promise, not about never lying.

Do morals or ethics play into the concept of a witch’s word?

Of course they play into it, but not as much as some people think. There is a tendency to over-think ethics in the witchcraft community right now and treat magic as fundamentally different than mundane actions. For instance, there are many actions people would take to influence others, or get promoted over another person, or cause some kind of small harm using normal means, yet feel that doing it with magic would be the height of immorality. This is quite far from the traditional view of the witch, and certainly different than the one that Huson presents.  

“For some reason real monetary involvement appears to vitiate the potency of the magic … most witches I know have generally found it to be the case … you will be able to bind your spells blithely without police interference as long as you do not actually get caught taking money for them or instigating any obvious antisocial activities such as blackmail, extortion, intimidation, or flagrant sexual practices of which the state may not approve.”

Does money interfere with how effective magic is?  Are there situations where a witch should charge for magical work?  Are there situations where money shouldn’t be charged?

This is an area where I completely disagree with Huson. Money is exchanged for magic all over the world, nothing could be more traditional. 

“Everything that seems to have an inherent power in it, that triggers the emotions strongly, is pressed into use for the purposes of magic.  Snippets of folklore, religion, myth, and herbal lore, all are blended together with notorious in difference to mixing of styles and cultures.  All that matters is the item’s effect on you and your deep mind.”

How much mixing is ok?  Herbs from differing cultures in the same rite?  Calling upon gods from different cultures in the same rite?

This is a complex issue. If mixing is done with intelligence, respect, and knowledge, there is no problem. Unfortunately this is not often the case. There are situations where disrespectful, inept, and even dangerous situations arise from wild eclecticism.  

If a witch works more than one tradition, should they use one correspondence table across multiple traditions, or change tables for each tradition? 

They should be able to work all traditions within their own context AND be able to work them slightly out of context in order to successfully blend them. It is a complicated issue that needs to be treated on a case by case basis.  It is easier to stick to one tradition, but if you can work in more than one successfully, the rewards are great. 

“As a witch, you do not necessarily have to worship any complete and permanent hierarchy of supernatural beings if you don’t want to.  There simply exists power to be tapped … there exist certain entities who will aid you in your spells; … but you must realize that they are now as dependent on your attentions as you in your spells are on theirs.”

Are the gods Jungian archetypes or discrete beings?

Both and more. On one level the gods are truly cosmic forces. On another they do represent constructs within the mind. On another they can be extremely powerful spirits that act and had better be treated as discrete beings. Let’s also not forget that the pantheons of deities are also the archetypal disfunctional families. There can be a lot of baggage that comes from a particular being.   You can approach them on various levels and get different results. Thinking of a being as merely an archetype and ignoring its particular mythology and ritual protocol however is BAD magic. Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hekate, Demeter, Kali, and Inanna are NOT the same being. They may have overlapping functions, but the mythologies are discrete and whether you want to or not, you are getting all that as well. 

Are the gods necessary to the work of magic?  Can witches work effective magic without them?

Necessary No. Helpful yes.  

Is it possible to keep relationships with more than one god at a time?  Are there practical considerations?

Yes to both questions. The considerations depend on the deities in question.  

“The sun and the moon are the two great hands of our cosmic clock.  Whereas the hour hand or sun governs the seasons of the year, the moon or minute hand governs the sea tides and the hidden workings of the deep mind.”

Does timing matter?  How far do you, personally, take it in timing spells?

Timing is important, and there are a lot of ways of looking at it. I use the Tibetan view of doing healing and pacifying work at dawn, increasing work at noon, magnetizing or enchanting or influencing in early evening, and wrathful work at night. However if you are working with planets there are the day and hour considerations, and even several ways of looking at those. For a proper astrologer, the timing considerations get very complex, but are the hinge of the system. In Huson’s system, it is not that vital. 


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We make a start – the Introduction

And now, all you witches settle in for a satisfying run-up to Halloween — 8 delightful days of unabashed and uncensored exploration of witchcraft, through the eyes of Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft.

To start us off, Sarah Lawless shares her thoughts on topics found in the Introduction.

Sarah Lawless, known to most of us as The Witch of Forest Grove, is a Pacific Northwest spaewife, author, artist and wort crafter.  Her art has appeared in Hex Magazine and Hoofprints in the Wildwood, The Cauldron, and Witches & Pagans and her crafting is currently offered up at Stang and Cauldron.

Want to hear more from Sarah?  Read her article Land Guardianship in the current issue of The Cauldron, or visit her at The Witch of Forest Grove.

For your reading ease, bits from Mastering Witchcraft are quoted below, with discussion points.  The bolded bits are Sarah’s responses.



ntroduction, in which Our Hero
proposes an origin for the gods,
the witch blood and magic, and
tells how the Winds of History beat upon
the Brow of Arte Magickal.

It was my witchcraft teacher who told me I must read Huson, he being of the older generation and I of the new, and I delighted in reading it; here was a book that finally matched my darkly witchy soul and was unashamed of speaking of power, darkness, spirits, and necromancy. I ate it up and thirsted for more as it differed so greatly from the goddess-power-do-no-harm books I was used to finding in bookstores. Instead of giving a message of not to do any real magic because you can’t be trusted to make the right decision, Mastering Witchcraft gives out the message that the responsibility of your actions lies with you alone and that guilt and shame have no place in spellwork if it is to be effective. Why fight our nature? We are what we are.

“The stake and the noose are things of the past, and we may once more choose our own gods, bright or dark.”

Are the stake and the noose things of the past?  Are we coming out of, or going into repression?

Law or no law, I don’t think much has changed over the centuries as people are still people. We witches hang precariously in a balance between good and evil in the public mind. When they have need of us or for us to entertain them we are good, but when they need someone to blame for wrongdoings or tragic events it is our blood that is often spilled. Such tragedy is not behind us in the past. Cushioned Wiccans in N. America may have already forgotten the violence towards priests and priestesses of Vodou after the earthquakes in Haiti by the common people who believed it was their evil magics who had brought the wrath of God upon the island. Men and women are stilled killed in the world today for the accusation of witchcraft. It is foolish to think no one would ever harm us. Laws are nothing to fundy family members, angry mobs, and fearful prejudiced coworkers, bosses, and landlords. Even in “civilized” society people still lose their jobs, homes, and loved ones over witchcraft. As long as there is superstition in the hearts of men there will be witches and there will be witch hunters.

Do we choose our gods, do they choose us, or something in between?

I believe that, like Huson says, we can choose whether our gods are bright or dark, or to serve with both hands: “Witchcraft is witchcraft. The seeds of success or destruction lie within you and you alone.” Overall, I think it differs for each pagan, but I have noticed witches in particular follow specific deities, usually Mercurial or Saturnian in nature. Keepers of the ways between worlds and masters of magic and the first of our kind – the Witchmother and the Witchfather. I’ve watched many try to cherry-pick their gods only to be thwarted. I myself have been unsuccessful in putting the preferred cultural faces on my deities; they resist me at every turn and will have none of it as they are who they are.

It is my opinion that it is a bad habit of pagans and witches alike to try to choose their gods like a dog at a shelter –of course they will pick the most beautiful or unique or the one that matches their purse and not necessarily the one they need or who actually wants to work with them in return. It is often better in the long run to put away the ego and see who comes to you of their own will. This applies to spirits as well as deities.

It is also a naughty habit of us modern magicians to think we have to have gods to worship and in matching male-female pairs no less. It is okay to have only one god or to have twelve. It is okay to   have no gods and worship nature, animals, and the dead instead as an animist. The male-female pair of witch-gods to me are the first ancestors, the first magicians, and the divine essence of the masculine and feminine – not necessarily gods in the definition we modern pagans use.

“… Great Azael and his cohorts had to assume tangible bodies in order to descend upon the earth.  Because of their revolt against higher authority and the ties with this world which they had subsequently formed, they were unable to divest themselves of these material forms and re-ascend into the heavenly spaces again.  It is from these exiled beings that all true magical knowledge and power is said to be derived.”

“…though most of the giants yielded up their lives in the flood, many of their spirits partaking as they did of the angelic nature of their fathers, proved indestructible, and lived on, invisible yet powerful even in their disembodied state.”

Do you believe there is such a thing as witch blood?  Can you be a witch without it? Does everyone have it?

Many modern witches use the introduction of Mastering Witchcraft as proof of their claim to witch blood, but Huson does not mention blood – he mentions myths and legends found throughout the world all influencing and feeding off of one another. His introduction is rife with Luciferianism – pay careful heed to the specific deities, spirits, and heroes of legend he mentions.

I do not believe in witch blood in the popular modern literal view of it. It smacks of dangerous elitism and racism to me. Witches are not a separate race. We are not even special. We are common as dirt and found across the world under a thousand different names and titles. I rather like to believe that all of us humans contain that divine spark of magical potential, but some of us are asleep and never touch upon it, and others (witches, shamans, mystics…) are awake and use it to the fullest. We are all children of the gods and the universe, not just some of us. We all share the same blood and we all bleed red.

Which is more important to successful magical work, knowledge of magic or relationships with spirits?

No spirits, no magic. All the magical knowledge in the world is of no use unless you have power and can wield it. Power comes from mastering spirits, not becoming masters over them, but of learning their ways, how to work with them, and how to navigate their world.

The world is full of spirits: of plants, of trees, of animals, of earth and stone, of the dead, and of many a host of inhuman entities like Huson describes in the introduction:

“…many of their spirits partaking as they did of the angelic nature of their fathers, proved indestructible, and lived on, invisible yet powerful even in their disembodied state. On occasion, these shades are said to gain access to the world of men by reincarnating in human shape, and are referred to as intruders, ancient alien souls transmigrating from the past.”

What is a spell or rite without calling on the spirits of the plants in the incense or the charm, your animal allies, your ancestral spirits, your gods of magic? Usually, an unsuccessful one. Some of the most primally powerful witches I have known had never read a book or been trained; they were wild creatures of instinct and mysticism.

Is there one “stream” of magical knowledge, fractured by the passage of time, or many streams, existing separately? 

I like to see the streams as many threads in a great tapestry; some touch and some do not, but they are all connected by the weave itself. There are cultural threads, experiencial threads, and tradition threads. We witches can pull gently on a thread to better see it in the weave and access the knowledge and wisdom from it far back into the reaches of ancestral memory.  The cloth is a collective library of thoughts, practices, beliefs, experiences, knowledge, and wisdom of all who have come before us. The threads are always there, right at our fingertips, we need only see them and trace them back through the weave so our body of lore and ability is not forgotten.

“Scholars began to study the antiquities of the classical world and with them many of the old magical practices, always, however, relating it to a Christian framework, for safety’s sake if nothing else.”

Did the suppression of witch beliefs and practices strengthen or weaken them?

Documenting is still documenting, no matter if the scholar looks down his nose at the content or not. Without James Frazer’s obsession with proving Christians more enlightened and heathens as mere unintelligent savages who worshipped only the seasons and food we would not have The Golden Bough with its twelve volumes of documented rural practices, beliefs, and rites that would otherwise have been lost to time. Without such scholars entire native languages and spiritual belief systems would have been lost. It is a double-edged sword – on one edge the dominance of Christianity crushed indigenous beliefs, but on the other they documented them so they survived until present day to be taken up again.

As I see witchcraft as an experiential practice and spirituality, I do not think it can ever be weakened by suppression. Its abilities will always come unbidden to generation after generation.

When the witch laws were repealed, was that good or bad?

Good because it stopped senseless persecution and finger pointing at a singled-out group. But… we forget that the laws were originally created to protect people from being cursed or taken advantage of by frauds – not to arrest or execute people just for practicing magic in general. The laws still protect the public from frauds and swindlers taking advantage of the superstitious, but most now have the stipulation that, if the accused truly believes in their religion or spirituality and that magic is real, they are guilty of no more than exercising their religious freedom.

“Witch” didn’t used to mean innocent herbalists and healers, it once referred to workers of malevolent curses and bestowers of the evil eye. Now there is no legal protection from the darker sorcerers and such things would be laughed at today in court leaving the innocent unprotected. For those who need a mental smack to be reminded of who and what witches once were and are still thought of in the non-pagan public mind, they should read Witchcraft in Old and New England by George Lyman Kittredge.

Has magical knowledge been hopelessly muddled?  Is it possible to pick out original threads? 

It is only muddled to the armchair witch. The practicing experiential witch has no problem accessing the knowledge and arts of our kind, understanding them, and putting them to use. Books help to make connections, but they are only a small aid to what we can do and fathom.

Huson himself states that our remaining lore is

“a patchwork quilt of historical odds and ends, religious flotsam and jetsam, but containing in the midst of that welter of confusing symbolism enough of the old secrets to make the processes work if properly pursued”.

We need only to step back and see the pattern for the patchwork, the cloth out of the woven threads, and the forest for the trees.

How would you do so?  Does it matter?

The spirits and deities are our teachers and guides. We are never alone on our magical journey, never without help. Summon them, work with them, and learn from them if they deem you worthy. Commune with them in otherworldly travels, in dreams, through possession… Learn directly from the plants, animals, ancestors, and fey creatures of the wilds. Learn from other practitioners to help fill in the gaps of lore and share with one another. One receives no gifts if one does not ask.

Can magic be studied as a science? 

I do not believe so. Science tries to quantify and explain everything. How does one explain the unexplainable? Magic is full of paradoxes, symbolism, and metaphor. The otherworld is ever changing and different for everyone – it cannot be quantified. Science can help understand nature, the earth, and the universe, but it is only the tiniest littlest wee fraction of its true nature. I never understood why we try to craft metal vessels to reach the moon and stars and study them when we can just leave our bodies and go there and see them for ourselves and speak with their denizens. Much magic has been lost due to science and scepticism.

Does explaining magic in a scientific framework help or hinder its practice?

Some sciences can help people understand such as botany, genetics, and astronomy, but overall for me science is best left behind when diving into magic as it only serves to ruin the essence of magic. Some of my favourite quotes that reflect this opinion come from Emma Wilby and Paul Huson:

“Without an experiential dimension any set of magical beliefs, however sophisticated, becomes little different from a scientific procedure – a manufactured means through which to manipulate nature and the objects within it.”

Emma Wilby, Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits

“…if and when the firelight happens to dim, at those times when the unknown presses hard upon us, in the presence of death or insanity or insurmountable calamity, we again know instinctively that science is ultimately irrelevant, and we once again experience the old childhood terrors. […]Science still completely fails to come to grips with that outer darkness beyond the flickering ring of light.”

Paul Huson, Mastering Witchcraft

If science is the safe campfire of humankind, we witches are the dwellers in the night who can see in the dark – for we have the light of the moon and the spirits to guide us.



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