“For there are many angels at our call,
And many blessed spirits who are bound
To lend their aid in every strait and turn;
And elves to fly the errands of the soul,
And fairies all too glad to give us help,
If we but know how to pronounce the spell
Which calls them to us in every need.”
-Charles G. Leland, “The Mystic Will,” 1907, Yogi Publication Society
The words above, carefully penned by Charles G. Leland, tell quite a story! The story to be told that in magic, just like in any subject, no matter how occult or everyday it may appear to be, you must have the right key to open up the right door. (Though some folks seem keen on smashing their way through.)
Developing a will of iron or an “iron-clad will” is ultimately one of the first steps in the study of witchcraft. The power of “Will” is more than just a tool used in the occult arts and mysticism; it is also used in your everyday life as well. It is a practical tool: From hypnotism, to fascination, mesmerize, improving the memory and recollection, thought forms, etc. All of these items are typically something that is taught over time in either a direct or an indirect way.
At times, your mentor may teach you these basic building blocks directly by testing you and conveying certain experiments for you to carry out or even by sending you on a quest to collect and find certain tools of the Craft – traveling along a path of personal discovery.
Sometimes, these lessons may be more elusive and come in the form of your Wiccan mentor telling you to memorize certain lines of ritual, to create something specific to see how well you have the ability to problem solve or put the pieces together, or even by giving you a huge reading list to study and read.
You didn’t know those things were to make you a better witch? Oh yes indeed, my dears! There is no one size fits all in this part of the training to become a witch!
The first two are very easy to see what is happening on many levels: The memorization of certain things helps to expand your memory – it also tests to see how driven you are, as occult wisdom is not given, it must be asked for. You cannot buy it – for the wisdom does not come with a price tag that can be swapped or traded, but by actually DOING any reading that is assigned to you by your mentor, you will be given the wisdom needed to point you in the right direction.
Books themselves do not contain all the keys to Wiccan-wisdom. Neither does the internet. (Many of those whom I have mentored will tell you that nothing makes me shake my head more than when someone reads something about the occult online and accepts it as fact without checking whether the online source was from a reputable place. I have even heard of people swapping spells on Pinterest, and if I even understood exactly what Pinterest is and how it works, I probably still wouldn’t like it!)
But the reading itself will aid in helping to start you on your path and point to clues of those that have come before. Books do not keep all the hidden clues – for that is up to us to ferret it out through reading, contemplating and digesting what we have read, and lastly: By asking our mentors many questions!
So where to begin?
A great book to get you started on the path of developing your will is the book, “The Mystic Will” by Charles G. Leland. This copy you see in my photo was published in 1907 by the Yogi Publication Society. It was originally published in England under the title, “Have you a Mystic Will?”
Leland was originally born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and traveled to a great many places. In fact, his first introduction to witchcraft was at his birth when a magical practitioner from Pennsylvania who was present at his birth performed a ritual including a key and taking him up to the highest floor in the house so that he would rise in life. (See the introduction of “The Witchcraft of Dame Darrell of York” spoken of below for more information on this.)
Most of the Wicca know of Leland today because of his wonderful text, “Aradia: Gospel of the Witches,” but he wrote much more as well, including this wonderful book that teaches you how to develop your own “Mystic Will” and I’ve spoken of a few other of his wonderful books in various blogs.
In this book Leland also describes the difference, with arguments for and against each, of Animal Magnetism & Fascination vs. Hypnotism and Suggestion:
“Animal Magnetism, first formulized by Anton Mesmer from a mass of more or less confused observations by earlier writers, was the doctrine that there is a magnetic fluid circulating in all created forms, capable of flux and reflux, which is specially active or potent in the human body. Its action may be concentrated or increased by the human will, so as to work wonders, one of which is to cause a person who is magnetized by another to obey the operator, this obedience being manifested in many very strange ways.”
-Charles G.Leland, “The Mystic Will,” 1907, Yogi Publication Society
…..and on Hypnotism:
“Hypnotism reduced to its simplest principle is, like the old Fascination, the action of mind upon mind, or of a mind upon itself, in such a manner as to produce a definite belief, action, or result. It is generally effected by first causing a sleep, as is done in animal magnetism, during which the subject implicitly obeys the will of the operator, or performs whatever he suggests. Hence arose the term Suggestion, implying that what the patient takes into his head to do, or does, must first be submitted to his own mental action.”
-Charles G. Leland, “The Mystic Will,” 1907, Yogi Publication Society
This very book also seems to have been influential for witchcraft pioneers such as Doreen Valiente, where the first chapter of her wonderful book, “Natural Magic” makes a prominent reference to Leland’s book, so it would appear that Doreen was most definitely influenced by this text like other well-known witches.
“However, if you really want to commune with your own inner mind, there are certain times which are particularly useful. One of these is at night, when you are on the borderline between waking and sleep, and this is a time when ideas between waking and sleep, and this is a time when ideas can be suggested by you to your subconscious mind, with a great degree of success.”
-Doreen Valiente, “Natural Magic,” 1975, Robert Hale Limited
Now, to slightly switch gears a little bit and throw in another interesting bit of information about Charles G. Leland you may or may not know …. As to me it is amazing how new revelations come to light every single day!
Professor Robert Mathieson, wrote the introduction of the book, traveled to Pennsylvania to visit the Philadelphia Historical Society to view and research their collection of Leland items. Since Leland was from Pennsylvania, they have an archive of his things – including items his niece had left too. (According to Professor Mathieson, they have documentation to show that Leland was “mentoring” his niece in the occult arts of witchcraft and it is fairly obvious that Leland practiced and believed in the things he wrote about.)
In the collection, was an illuminated manuscript that Leland made for his niece titled, “The Witchcraft of Dame Darrell of York.” This has the appearance of being a collection of spells, rituals and lore as practiced in medical England. It actually is not a collection from medieval England and passed down without change, but because Leland was well versed in the arts and lore of witchcraft, he created the document with the “Dame Darrell of York” character added to what seems to be a very workable form of witchcraft and lore. This in a sense could be described as a “Book of Shadows,” though the word “Book of Shadows” was not used during the same time period to describe grimoires of either theurgy or goety when Leland illuminated the manuscript of spells for his niece.
Overall, the fine folks at “The Witches’ Almanac” was able to create a beautiful hardback edition that has a complete copy of his illuminated manuscript and also just the text for easy reading, in the same book to preserve this valuable and important document in the quest to preserve the history and practice of various witchcrafts. We owe them and Professor Mathieson a debt of gratitude for bringing this book into the light for us all to enjoy, or it would sit, as it has for over a hundred years, in the Historical Society in Philadelphia.
It should make you all wonder about what goodies are still yet to be discovered? There are many unanswered questions that people pose, and for one reason or another, the answers to them do not see the light of day. Perhaps the occult will always remain very occult and hidden… Or maybe, folks just need to be braver and ask the right questions! You might be surprised how many witches are willing to chat about things if you are only brave enough to ask them. If they don’t wish to chat about a particular subject for one reason or another, they will quickly tell you, but there is never any harm and asking….