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Monday, May 29, 2017

Ritual Magic in Theory and Practice

[Source] CSeveral years ago I decided to do an evening-long introduction to ritual magic at the New York Open Center, one of the city’s best-known gathering places for mind, body, and spirit activities. Soon before it was about to start I told myself, with some surprise, “My God! I’m about to do ritual magic with a bunch of people who have walked in off the streets of New York!”

Despite my apprehensions, the evening went off well. Power was raised, channelled in a certain direction, and then the ritual was closed. The only negative result was a comment I got back on a feedback sheet from a participant, who said she was shocked that I did not begin the ritual by invoking the holy archangels of the four directions (usually given as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel).

The person who complained was both right and wrong. In ritual magic, it is essential to create a sacred space to work in. But it is not essential to do this by invoking the four archangels specifically. In fact there are many ways to do it. Invoking the archangels is part of the Western tradition of high magic, particularly as handed down by the extremely influential Victorian occult society known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Here is another, quite different way to create a sacred space, from the Native American medicine man Rolling Thunder (known as “RT” to his friends), as described by one of his students:

We started a fire in the fire pit and formed a circle around it, warming ourselves in the chilly weather. RT pulled out a pouch of Five Brothers Tobacco, pure tobacco with no artificial ingredients. He passed the pouch around, each of us taking a little bit of tobacco in our hands. RT then led us in a prayer, starting out with Father Sun, Mother Earth, Grandmother Moon, and All Our Relations. He would include “the East where the Sun rises, to the South where the heat comes from, to the North where the cold comes from, and to the West where the sun sets.” RT would vary the order and the wording from time to time, just to maintain our attention.1

This is somewhat simpler than a lengthy invocation and visualisation of archangels. The version I used in the ritual in New York was simpler still; at the outset I simply asked the participants to visualise a pillar of light in each corner of the room.

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