We Can Do Better: A Magickal Manifesto

Photo credit: Amelia Quint | Antheraea polyphemus moth; a member of the Saturniidae silk producing family

Photo credit: Amelia Quint | Antheraea polyphemus moth; a member of the Saturniidae silk producing family

Today I asked myself this question: “Is it ethical for me to sell to a community that I despise?”

I’m very cognizant of the negative connotations that word carries, and the truth is, I’ve felt resentment creeping into my attitude towards specific behaviors of the spiritual community for a while. While I cherish the occult arts and my fellow witches, there are certain practices and beliefs towards which I can no longer turn a blind eye.

For the most part, the modern-day mystic has little respect for the integrity of the sacred arts. We are satisfied with Pinterest platitudes and the Lululemon spiritual agenda instead of seeking knowledge at its source. We want to wear our magick as a transgressive fashion statement instead of studying the deeper meanings behind it. Your average practitioner would likely be unable to answer questions about the history or practice of their craft with any degree of accuracy -- though they could tell you what was posted on Instagram yesterday.

Though the occult is experiencing a visible renaissance, the archetypes within it aren’t new. We have a wealth of primary sources from which to draw inspiration. Early Greco-Roman works are the genesis point for many of today’s astrological archetypes. You can look to the planets’ namesakes in Homer’s hymns and Hesiod’s mythology for information on how they interact with one another and humanity. In the same way, you can review the odes in Ovid’s Metamorphoses for clues to how these timeless stories are playing out in the constellations above. 

Furthermore, an accurate understanding of the history during which these myths emerged is essential to understanding how they work. Academic rigor is pitifully lacking from today’s spiritual communities, who prefer hearsay over facts and unqualified personal gnosis over history. The Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and other ancients kept meticulous records; we have only to utilize them. 

Of course, we know that tarot came much later. Misinformation about tarot may be the most rampant, in large part due to legends propagated by the Golden Dawn and other secret societies of the early twentieth century. Indeed, it is much more exciting to believe that the cards are part of an unbroken line of magickal tradition or grand conspiracy than to acknowledge the fact that tarot has only been used in its current divinatory capacity for a little over 300 years.

But is the real history of the occult not fascinating? Is it not marvelous?

Throughout the centuries both men and women, free people and slaves, participated in rituals, oracles, divination, festivals, and more that is likely lost to time. The archetype of the sacred knowledge keeper has persisted in nearly every major society worldwide. Truly, the reality of these arts is no less magical than the rumors we perpetuate. 

Perhaps ancient Greece had no sacred prostitutes1, but their culture included a class of priestesses so respected they were called upon to assist with political and social decisionmaking. That’s more than we can say for feminism in some regions of today’s world! As such, there is absolutely no reason to hold onto inaccuracies when the truth is just as empowering.

The most grievous error in grasping so desperately at the things we wish to be true is that we give those who would tear us down an inroad. Skeptics see this behavior and dismiss us instead of further investigating the rich lineage of this craft. Though much of what we do remains unproven, the vast cultural history of the occult arts could become one of our greatest strengths.

So many of us have come to the sacred arts and alternative spirituality after some form of religious trauma. We found our past belief structures to be too flimsy or too rigid a container for our collective spirit; however, if we permit ourselves to cling to delusions, are we not that which we have sought to leave behind? We have traded one religion for another.

This may be most visible in the superstitions around modern spirituality and occult practices. We are told to burn sage, charge our crystals in the moonlight, never to speak of spells in process, and always wear white to yoga class. While many of these can be useful tools, how often do we stop and ask ourselves where these practices originated? Are they truly necessary, or are they more of a compulsion we feed out of fear that not doing so would invoke some some vague, evil force? Perhaps the aforementioned religious trauma is exerting a surreptitious effect on our spiritual practices; however, if that is the case, we need to become aware of such influences and move past them. 

So, where do we go from here? In the spirit of Saturn in Sagittarius, we must hold ourselves to a higher philosophical standard.

Anytime you post -- on a blog or social media -- you are representing the wider network of mystics not just online, but around the world. You carry that responsibility. Every post doesn’t need to be an academic treatise, but know why you do what you do. Discover the impetus behind your beliefs not just for the spiritual community, but for yourself.

As for my personal services, I will continue to offer them as my schedule allows. It is my deepest hope that the full natal chart readings can at least help you scratch the surface of the great lineage I’ve described above. That’s one of the many reasons I’ve brought Zach onto The Midheaven’s team. His knowledge of the tarot’s history not only puts the reading into context, but makes the reading a living, breathing thing.

That’s what I’m striving for in all things: work that’s living and breathing. I could write you a generic explanation for Venus in Scorpio in 50 words, but that’s not going to help you. I want to do more. There is so much more to say.

We can do better.

Yours,

 

Citations

  1. Connelly, J. B. (2007). Portrait of a priestess: women and ritual in ancient Greece. Princeton University Press.
  2. Hesiod. The Homeric hymns, epic cycle, Homerica. Translation by Evelyn-White, H. G. (1914). 
    Loeb Classical Library Vol 57. Harvard University Press.