Dear Witchful Thinking,
I heard somewhere something weird, and wanted to ask you about it. I heard that during the Burning Times, if a Witch broke her oaths to the coven then part of the punishment was that she would be reincarnated away from people she knows. She would be amongst strangers and not with other Witches. Is that true?
Young Padawan Learner
This falls into the realm of coven oral teaching, which I have not been able to verify in a book, and had to ask an elder. While we historically know that the Burning Times did not happen as we thought they did, the mythology surrounding medieval covens has stuck with us and been reinterpreted for modern times.
Wiccans believe in reincarnation. Since everything else in nature goes in cycles, it makes sense that so do we. That’s why people have past-life memories sometimes. Many subscribe to the idea that our souls are here to learn lessons, and that we have decided before our incarnation what lessons we need to learn. People come into our lives because they have a lesson to teach us–especially people we don’t get along with. If you have it in you, try thanking someone who makes you angry, hurts you, or that you find deeply unpleasant–thank them for the lesson they are teaching you.
I think we are reincarnated with people we know, especially family. In one way or another, we all must come to terms with our family and balance out the relationships as we grow and change and when there is a lot of stress. The elder I talked to calls this your “soul group”. When you meet somebody who reminds you of somebody else, or you feel like you’ve known them forever, then you’ve been with them in a past life. Additionally, if you instantly dislike someone, you’ve met with them in a past life too.
The elder I spoke to told me about the term “Warlocking” (yes, I realize it is a World of Warcraft word for newbies gone wrong). As you know, “warlock” means “oath-breaker”. She explained it as a karmic law (rather than the effect of the coven actions) of the Fates that goes into effect when one does something unspeakably horrible to get in the way of things. This includes murder, so ratting out your coven would have been something that would qualify one for Warlocking. Basically, it reincarnates them out of the way of the work that magical people are doing and puts them out of harms way. It gives them a chance to fix their mistake rather than repeating it in another life, and keeps those doing the magical work safe from their bad influence. It is a self-regulating mechanism that is not controlled by the Gods, but to which they too are a part.
Because magical people like Witches are working to become familiar with the laws of Karma and in working with energy, deity and other sacred tasks, they are held to a higher standard than non-magical folk. Remember that everything you do comes back to you, and if not this time, then it’ll catch you the next!
As you know, our boundaries about relationships is different from other peoples. In honor of Beltain I wanted to talk about a specific one.
Very likely, if you are just beginning your magical practice, this won’t be a problem for you, but as your practice grows and your magical identity deepens, you may want to consider choosing a magical partner.
A magical partner is a person with whom you do magical work with. This work could be spellcraft (like a two person coven), service to the community (such as leading a group), doing a Great Work, or a mature teacher/student relationship. A magical partner is someone you work closely with as you grow in the Craft. In Wiccan communities, your partner is typically the opposite gender. It is an unusual relationship when looked at from outside the community.
A magical partnership is not inherently a romantic or sexual relationship, although it can take on the characteristics. A magical partnership is based upon the work you do together, but the nature of the work can be very intimate and emotional, with or without sexual activity. The relationship is very much like professional dance partners.
Some things to consider when choosing a magical partner:
- Magical practice: choose someone who has the same style that you do, or who magically thinks like you do, or is of the same tradition. Your styles need to mesh and come to some agreement about how you will go about your practice.
- Your romantic partner: what would your spouse or significant other think about this magical relationship? What are the boundaries? At what point does it become emotional cheating? Think about what energy and parts of yourself you would be keeping away from your partner. Come up with some rules to avoid jealousy–remember that in a serious relationship, your partner comes first. Obviously if your magical partner is your romantic partner, then this is not a problem.
- Focus and intent: what will be the nature of your work? Will you be working on a project? Leading and teaching the community? Worshiping a particular deity? Working on a particularly difficult psychological problem? Exploring other realms together? You and your partner should be on the same page.
- On the Outside: how does this relationship look to outsiders? Not that it matters, on one hand, but you had best be prepared for rumors if you aren’t willing to explain yourself. If you are leading a Beltain ritual and one of you invokes the Goddess and the other invokes the God and you spend half the ritual flirting and making out with each other, people are going to wonder if there is anything between you and what your significant other thinks about it. You may tell yourself that it is just ritual and, like actors on stage, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but for the observers, the energy is there and it looks very real.
- In the Pagan community: while those not in the know about your relationship may be whispering to each other, those in the know in the community may treat you like a couple. For example, they may invite you and your magical partner to a ritual or gathering, and neglect to extend the invitation to your significant other.
- A magical partnership is very serious: the Karma and energy accumulated in a magical partnership is amplified, just like in Circle. Personality differences, psychological scars and spiritual crisis are more likely to come to the surface quickly in this kind of relationship. Luckily, you have this partner to work through it with! You will experience a deep sense of loyalty, almost like family, that comes from being emotionally intimate with someone else. This relationship is a chance to experiment, and the work you do here is likely to influence how you are in other relationships. In order to experience the best of the other, you will have to give them your best. It is a serious commitment.
- This relationship has cycles: it begins with a lot of energy, experiences growing pains and conflict, and may eventually end or change form, just like any other relationship. It may not go in the direction you expect, but you will certainly grow and learn from it. Be prepared to commit to it as long as it is productive, and be ready to release it when it is time to move on.
Having a magical partner is a beautiful and intimate way to experience Divinity and do the work of the Gods. But it is a very mature relationship, both personally and magically, and must be thought through just like any other magical endeavor. Rather than searching one out, I think you’ll find that you’ll fall into one naturally as you grow in the community and in your Craft. You will end up working with people on rituals and may find a powerful energetic chemistry between you. You will likely end up partnering with someone you already know–partnering with a stranger is unwise when you consider the possible ramifications.
Dear Witchful Thinking,
I keep reading in rituals about the Watchtowers. I’m wondering where they come from and why they are important and what they actually do.
Dear Mama C,
Good question! They are all over, aren’t they? Did anyone else first encounter them in The Craft (1996)? Well, they’ve been around for a long time, so I had to do some research about where they came from.
From what I can tell, there seem to be several possible origins which sort of coallesqued with Gardner in his magical studies to the point where they seemed almost required to be included in a magical system. Possible origins include:
- Ancient Rome: small “watchtowers” were built at crossroads with little altars in them for the Lares, or local spirits. These small stone structure dotted the landscape, and would have been associated with ancient pagan ways.
- Elizabethan England: Dr. John Dee, the official occultist of Queen Elizabeth, worked with Edward Kelly to reveal the Enochian system of magic. They came up with different symbols for each of the directions, which they associated with different stars, colors, elements and angels. The angels were envisioned as guardians of these watchtowers.
- Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn: Because they were well-educated in existing magics, the HOGD adopted the watchtowers for a ritual used to cleanse the space.
- Kibbo Kift: This off-branch of Woodcraft and the Boy Scouts involved boys in the English countryside holding elaborate rituals in what they believed was the “Indian way”. It was well known that they did ritual in circle and called different elements representing the four directions. While we’ve never heard of it these days, this was a huge movement during Gardner’s time, and Woodcraft was set to out-pace the Boy Scouts if it weren’t for their internal politics conflicting with the two World Wars. These fake Native American ceremonies were popular, but probably not based on any actual particular Native religious ritual.
- Uncle Gerald: As you probably know, Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, was also well-versed in the magical systems of the day, including the magical formulas used by the Golden Dawn.
Now-a-days, mostly traditional Wiccan groups like Garnerian and Alexandrian covens call upon the Watchtowers. However, you can still find them included in a lot of books, like Silver Ravenwolf’s “Teen Witch”, the Farrar’s “The Witches Way”, and Lady Sheba’s “Book of Shadows” to name a few. As a general rule, I suspect, Wiccans have moved away from the formal magical systems based upon older traditions, and have moved towards a more informal and intuitive practice of ritual.
The purpose of the Watchtowers is whatever you tell them to do. Typically, they might cleanse the circle, witness the rite, maintain the integrity of the magical boundary, and bring their elemental energy into the circle. Remember when you cast a circle, you are creating a miniature universe, so be clear about your purpose. Many traditions say something like:
Hail to the Gaurdian of the Watchtower of (direction), ye lords of (element), I do summon, stir and call thee forth to guard and protect this magic circle. (draw the correct pentagram) So Mote it Be!
The Watchtowers are important precisely because they connect us to this long history of magical ritual. When something is used the same way for a long time, it builds up power. The advantage of this for the beginner is that it requires less experience on their part to get the Watchtowers to do their jobs.
Be sure, however, to send them away when you are done with the Circle–if you take it out, you put it away! I occasionally hear ritualists dismiss the directions by saying “Go if you must, stay if you like”. This is a pet peeve of mine. Would you leave a candle burning unattended? No. It might burn the house down. Elementals, and the Watchtowers that house them, are not human minded, but Elemental minded. They seek to be their element, which is not necessarily what we want from them. Out of control water means flooding.
I have been to places in which the Guardians of the Circle had not been dismissed properly, and had the eerie sensation of being watched. Some people on Circle felt threatened by this energy that was just trying to do its job. The only way to get rid of it is to dismiss it. At the end of ritual, everyone needs to safely come back down to Earth, in our human place of existence in the now. It is the ethical responsibility of the ritualists to make sure this happens, and releasing the Watchtowers, Elementals and any other Circle Guardians (including the Gods) is important. It is polite to make sure everyone knows when to leave.
Always plan any magical act, including ritual, ahead of time. Think about the possible consequences of each action, and remember things get amplified in Circle. Whether or not you include the Watchtowers is up to you, but it can be an easy way to access a stored energy of power to lend to your Circle.
Do you have a question for Witchful Thinking? Whether it is a personal ethical question, or just something you’ve been wondering about the craft, or something you’d like to read about, you can have your question answered on the Internet! Yay! Simply send your question to JamieFreemanTarot@gmail.com, and in a few days, you’ll get a response from me.
This is YOUR place to get answers from a real person–answers you can’t always find in a book. So go on, give it a try! If you enjoy the Dear Witchful Thinking posts, click “advice” in the categories cloud to see them all.
Dear Witchful Thinking,
Do you cast spells for free ? This is just until I get over my fear of becoming a witch.
There is so much here that makes me sad. In response to sentence 1: No. In response to sentence 2: …um…really?
I don’t cast spells for other people for free. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that nothing in this world is free. I’ll cast a spell for you, but you’re gonna have to work for it. I’m not going to tie myself to a stranger’s Karma. Studies show that people don’t value things they get for free, and if you do any spell, you should be very tied to the outcome. When you expect things for free, you get what you pay for. The Rule of Three applies, and 3×0 is still nuthin’.
With my tarot readings, spells, and even my writing, I expect to get paid in some way–or else, why would I do them? The client is paying for my time and attention, as well as my many years of education and experience. When you pay for something, you get better results, pay more attention to the outcome, and are more likely to use it. However, you don’t always have to pay with money. Many readers are happy to take a trade of equal value. Remember, EQUAL value. I once did a trade tarot reading. I wrote four pages for her…she wrote me two sentences. There was nothing fair and equitable about it and I felt robbed.
Many Craft coven laws explicitly state that you cannot sell the Craft for money. And I completely agree with them. That is why I write articles explaining how to do things–they aren’t secrets. With tarot, I can show you a dozen books on how to do it. Heck, every deck has a little booklet that tells you what it all means. What you pay for is the skills of the reader.
So…no. For everyone’s benefit, I don’t do spells for free.
As to the second part, I guess I don’t really understand it. What are you afraid of? Sure. There are some hard things about being a Witch, like deciding to come out of the broom closet, personal responsibility, and regularly facing your inner demons.
If you’re not already Pagan, and are coming from the mainstream culture, I can imagine that you are afraid of the dark occult forces, of losing your salvation through Jesus, and of conjuring up devils and demons. I suppose the attraction to you is this Faustian desire for power in this life. But if that’s what you want…seriously, Wicca doesn’t want you.
Wicca and Paganism are serious religious life paths. People are attracted to them because they already feel like they are Pagan, and just haven’t put a name to their beliefs yet. That’s why we don’t convert–practitioners recognize the religion as something they’ve been looking and longing for. They may be afraid to jump in the deep end without doing some more research, but most of the time, they already are Witches in one sense or another.
So, anonymous, if you are afraid of being a Witch because you aren’t sure what it means or entails or if it is right for you, then I encourage you to do some more research. Witchful Thinking is happy to answer any question you might have. However, if you are afraid of going to Hell and demons and so forth…well, then I encourage you to do some more research, if only to educate yourself about the multicultural world we live in. Try some non-Christian derived sources, yes? Don’t worry. You won’t go to Hell for reading about Witches.
Additionally, anonymous, I encourage you to learn to cast your own spells. Not only will they be tailored to your situation, but you will be more invested in their outcome. The process of learning to do your own magic can be very empowering and healing.
Dear Witchful Thinking,
I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about Wicca and Paganism. In a few of the books I read, I found instructions on performing sex magic. However, I have not been able to find any explanations as to why sex magic is used and how same sex practitioners can use it. Could you explain what sex magic is used for and how two same sex practitioners can use it?
Just like magic, sex is a ritual act in itself. You start with a goal: to make love, to make a child, to dominate the other, to be subdued, to pleasure the other, to both get off, to have fun, etc. Next, you do activities to make you and your partner get there. Then you raise energy and finally ground it out (with cuddling, smoking, or whatever your post-coitus ritual is!).
We also do it symbolically in ritual. The great rite is the act of putting the athame in the chalice. It represents the sexual union of the Goddess and God. I have seen some beautiful rituals where the athame touches the athame, or other same-sex symbolism, so don’t feel limited or excluded from expressing your own sexuality in ritual simply because what is written expresses heterosexual union. If you are interested in reading more about this, I recommend looking up the Feri Tradition. They have a wonderful creation story that includes same-sex unions as part of their sacred cosmology.
We also have the Great Rite, which is an actual sacred sexual union. In a group that is very tight-knit, the Priest and Priestess leading the ritual will ask the rest of the group to leave, so they can do the Great Rite in Circle and formally complete the union. They invoke as more than themselves and represent the actual God and Goddess in sexual bliss. It would be for special occasions–perhaps a Beltain ritual. I don’t think the ritual is done this way as often as outsiders would have us believe. It is done usually between already established partners in privacy. From the rumors I’ve heard, there aren’t a lot of covens who actually have sex all together, or in front of each other (and really, would you want to?). The purpose of this Great Rite is to re-enact the creation of the Universe and to give your bodies in honor of the Gods. If you are prepared for it, it can be a beautiful ritual. Unfortunately, I don’t think most people know how to prepare themselves for this. I’ve never seen the instructions in a book, so it might remain an oral history (no pun intended) that you will need a teacher for. If you want to read about it, the fiction novel “The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Theodore Roszak is a brilliant piece about woman’s magical wisdom vs. masculine science-as-god, and how the two might merge in alchemical union. Plus, it’s based on Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein”.
So that’s the esoteric stuff. You can use sex magic in your own magical practices as a Witch. You can do it solo or with a partner or group. Remember the more people you have, the more difficult it will be to create groupmind and focus on what you want.
Sex magic challenges us to reevaluate how we use pleasure and what we believe about our bodies. Remember that Wiccans do not see sex or pleasure as sinful in any way, but an expression of our sexual selves. That is why our Gods have sex. But we do have a responsibility to be ethical. Wicca is a fertility religion as much as it is a mystery religion, so we see sensuality in nature.
How to do Sex Magic
- Identify your goal and put it in positive terms. Visualize what you want.
- Make sure all participants know what the goal is. Make sure the visualization is the same.
- Cast sacred space. Be sure to include the area where the magic and grounding will take place.
- Raise energy through sexual activity, keeping the goal in mind.
- At climax, release that energy into the Universe towards that goal.
- Ground in the usual way.
- Take up or release the sacred space.
- Know that your magic will work and wait for the results you are looking for. Do other actions to support that goal.
For example, let’s say you and your partner feel passionate about saving the rainforest and want to do something about it. You get together and visualize the rainforest alive with animals. You visualize humans enjoying the rainforest and leaving without a trace. You visualize bulldozers and trucker equipment going around the rainforest to a tree farm instead, or using other materials to get their products made.
Perhaps you come up with a chant to use while you raise energy: “Let the rainforest be free to thrive and grow, for future generations to know. Let the companies find other ways and grow out of this consumerist phase. With harm to none in perfect love, by our will let it be done!”
Then while you please each other in the usual way, you say this chant or keep it in mind. At climax, release the energy towards your target and send it out into the universe. Follow up by donating money to an organization that protects the rainforest, or make an effort to buy Fair Trade or use products that don’t contain rainforest wood–whatever will support your spell.
Sex is an extremely powerful form of energy because it opens up most or all of our chakras and gets the energy rolling. It takes some practice to keep that visualization going while you are being stimulated, so try it again if it doesn’t work. In my opinion, raising energy this way should be used if you want something for the both of you and are ready to accept whatever Karma it brings. Really thinking through the potential consequences of a any spell is extremely important. Let’s say you ask for a boat, and the universe gives you one, but you live in Arizona away from most bodies of water–what’s your plan, exactly, to take care of, pay for, and use this boat? Even asking for bonding, as in a sacred marriage through the Great Rite–are you really ready to be spiritually tied to this person? Have you thought about what that means or what it will mean five or fifteen years down the line? It’s a really big decision that is unnecessary for intimacy or love–those things are magic in themselves. Before you do any kind of powerful magic, including sex magic, do some real reflection and ask what you really want. Are you spiritually binding your partner so they won’t leave you or so you won’t feel lonely? Maybe this isn’t the best way to go about getting what you want, and another way would be more expedient and less spiritually possessive.
Remember that whoever you do magic with will be bound to the spell. You’ll need to be absolutely sure of what you all want when you do this magic together. Keep your ethical practices in mind. For that reason, most folks do sex magic solo.
As you can see, it doesn’t matter what your partners gender is when you do sex magic. It’s about the energy and setting it to work for you. Same-sex partners can do mutual masturbation, use toys, games, or oral sex to achieve climax the same way that heterosexual partners can. Unfortunately, the language of most books on sex magic is aimed at heterosexual couples, but that doesn’t mean you can’t adapt it for your use.
Seriously though, I don’t recommend sex magic for couples unless they are both well-practiced and versed in other magical practices. At least start with solo practice to train yourself. Try a few books on the subject to get a feel for it before you jump in the deep end.
A few Sex Magic books for Practitioners
- Wiccan Sex Magic by Inga Steddinger: “The author reveals the secrets of sexual energies released and guided by the rites, rituals and hidden techniques of witchcraft– ancient and modern. These techniques range from the use of scourge and bonds to the enactment of the Great Rite. This is the most radical exploration of the explicitly sexual workings of witchcraft and neo-shamanism.”
- Magic for Lovers by Selene Silverwind: “Every romantic couple needs a little extra magic in their lives, and MAGIC FOR LOVERS offers just the right blend of spice for the bedroom and the soul. Many relationship books encourage partners to strengthen their bonds through sexual adventures that, while bringing short-term sizzle, seldom lead to lasting change. Selene Silverwind uses a fundamental—and fun—approach that is grounded in ancient Wiccan magical concepts, traditions, and practices, with some tantra, feng shui, and kundalini yoga thrown in. This heady brew of carnal spirituality is integrated into rituals, ceremonies, and spells that are designed to help new lovers last, old lovers rekindle their passion, and all lovers have exciting and meaningful relationships.”
- Rites of Pleasure by Jennifer Huntwood: This book is about how Pagans and Wiccans view and use their sexuality in spiritual practices. While it won’t have a “how to” section, it might be a good foundation for thinking about your sexuality in this path.
- Kink Magic by Taylor Elwood: “Kink Magic: Sex Magic Beyond Vanilla explores the realm of sex magic from the kinkier side. Authors Taylor Ellwood and Lupa take the intense altered states of consciousness inherent in BDSM and other fetish play and use them to create practical and metamorphic techniques. Detailed explanation of theory gives a solid foundation, while personal stories of their own spiritual adventures illustrate the effectiveness of kink magic. This book presents techniques for everything from casting sigils, to confronting–and banishing–your inner demons, to taking your sexy roleplay and turning it into powerful invocation rituals. Rather than dogmatically elaborating on the “right” way to do it, Taylor and Lupa give you ideas to apply to your own kink and magical practices, regardless of your sexual orientation or relationship status. Whether you’re top or bottom, dominant or submissive, or even the most flexible switch, you’ll find plenty here to take your practice deeper and farther than ever before.”
- Sexy Witch by LaSara Firefox: “Employing a unique blend of feminism and magick, this refreshing guide to female self-empowerment helps women acknowledge the beauty, strength, and sexiness within themselves. Utterly honest and captivating, LaSara FireFox banishes the damaging misconceptions and shame often associated with female sexuality and sheds light on what it truly means to be a Sexy Witch.”
The only one of these books I’ve actually looked through is Sexy Witch, which is definitely aimed at women. When looking for a book about sex magic, be sure it includes information about ethics and avoids dogmatic or “generic” information. Generally, if a book can’t bring itself to say “masturbation”, “orgasm”, or use real words for genitalia, you may be dealing with a book that doesn’t give itself permission to go into real depth. The contents should have real spiritual meaning for you, and not just be there to titillate.