“The chief duties of the ancient Priesthood were first, to find out the points of contact or unity between man and higher existences than himself; next, to discover the laws of man’s being, and teach him to adjust his actions to the will of those higher existences; and finally, to invoke or solicit their aid for man in the performance of his earthly mission.”
-“Art Magic, or Mundane, Sub-Mundane and Super Mundane Spiritism,” William Britten & Emma Hardinge Britten; published by Progressive Thinker. Copy pictured printed 1898
In a coven setting, all Initiates are of the Priesthood and the Priesthood of witchcraft attempts to carry out the above description in many different ways, depending on (and according to) the tradition each initiate represents combined with the personal understanding of occult work they’ve arrived at after years of knowledge has solidified into wisdom.
In the first duty listed, the Priesthood is said to find or unite with points of contact higher than themselves, and we do so through contact with higher forces and all the way up to the Supreme Being – which is the ineffable, the unknowable Self-Existing One.
This “Supreme Being” is also known as the Life-Force that connects all things – that comes down to you and me and all things found within the universe. It is the Great Web that makes us all part of the one – and the divine fire that sparks all life. It is the unknowable and Ultimate Deity.
The Goddess (Great Mother Goddess – Gracious Goddess) and God (Great Father God – Good God) are principles to our coven, or first expressions of the Supreme Being, and from them, the Celestial Fire continues to unfold. (atmospheric air produces friction, becoming fire, then condensation (water) and solidification (earth) – Evaporation, Combustion, Condensation and Decomposition.)
The Goddess and God are looked at as “occult principles,” even if you don’t believe in humanized images of gods, known as gods in our own image. This is possible through understanding various natural laws such as frequency, vibration; and understanding that to get result “C,” I must push buttons “A” and “B.”
Some covens will not talk about the names used by their covens. There are a number of reasons for that, and we should respect that, because that doesn’t mean they are doing something naughty, but god-forms used by other covens are none of our business unless they wish to share with others those gods.
In reality, any named god-form is not all-powerful. They are only given energy to affect things here by the the worship provided to them, and are not the same thing as the Great Mother Goddess or the Great Father God, which are our primal parents.
One of the main reasons many coven god-forms are kept secret is that those “named gods,” or “Stone gods,” could be altered by people who have full understanding of how occult power works – meaning, I can exercise thought-transference and mind-control of you through the gods you are devoted to. You are not necessarily called to god-forms or chosen by these impressions of thought made from the plasticine matter of the Astral Light or the telesmanic impressions, but are drawn to it by the Law of Sympathy – like attracts like. Like thought-forms always attract and coalesce to like thought-forms in order to keep their survival.
A buzzword you will hear passed around a great deal now is “egregore” which is a collective group-mind. Most individual god-forms are egregores, hence, why certain folks are attracted to certain covens or traditions in themselves – the like thought-forms through the Law of Sympathy draws like people together like a magnet. Egregores and thought-forms work within the Astral Light through what may best be described as “the astral nervous-system” which we call elementals and the formless-forms of force. These beings make up the largest inhabitants of the Astral Plane. The reason the Moon is so connected with the practice of magic and why the phases of the moon and it’s astrological correspondences are so important in magic is because the Moon is the outer symbol of the Astral Plane. All things go through the moon or begin on the Astral Plane before they can form in the physical or earthly plane.
Likewise, at times, opposite views based on the type of thoughts that make up that egregore repel folks from each other. Many times, it isn’t because someone doesn’t like a certain person, coven or tradition; but on an astral level, they are incompatible. This does not make one bad and the other good, but is the simple fact that even as witches, we are all on our own individual paths of evolution and are at different places in the occult.
In our tradition & lines, we are not dedicated to any god – they are principles to us, you may call them what you wish and believe what you wish about them.
Aspects and principles of the Goddess can be found in many forms. In Janet & Stewart Farrar’s book titled, The Witches’ Goddess, they reference the Supernal Mother:
“…Binah, the Supernal Mother, who first initiates creation by giving form to the raw directionless energy of Chokmah, the Supernal Father. Not until Binah has given birth to Chesed (as Diana to Lucifer) does the masculine aspect emerge as an organized entity, as distinct from pure energy.”
This is beautifully stated as it relates to Qabalistic studies. This also relates to the Wicca teaching that tells us that the Father aspect, the God, is the initiator and the Mother aspect, is the response. Meaning, she shapes and gives life to all things. Both are equal, as one cannot exist without the other.
Today in our world, the Great Mother, particularly in her aspect of the Moon Goddess and the Earth Goddess has tapped us in very deep levels. Those that don’t believe what we believe still find ourselves referring to Nature as feminine and even machinery, such as vehicles, as She… and this is because the Goddess is what affects us most in our physical world – which can be why many times we are witches will pay more attention to her than the Father aspect. She is the condensation and the solidification of matter, the response. He is the friction/movement and the fire. The Goddess has a greater role in the physical world than the God does – though, that doesn’t mean he isn’t equal, it’s just his role is different.
The Farrar’s wrote another book, The Witches’ God, which outlines just as much wonderful info about he God aspects too.
I found both of these books valuable, especially for the section on the various god-forms and to look up some of their general correspondences and mythologies. That can put you on track to be able to learn more about their stories.
If you are interested though in learning about god forms that are for the gay male witch – you will want to check out Casey Giovinco’s book, Garbed in Green. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
This is where some people who have a religious bent will bring in the mythologies of various pantheons of gods and goddesses. These mythological tales can teach lessons based on the tales they tell. Christians throughout the world do this by reading the stories of Jesus and attempting to lead a life that would have the same universal love of Christ. Some Christian mystics might try to get in touch with “Christ Consciousness,” being a form of aspecting the energies of Christ.
From this point, we encounter what may be termed angelic hierarchies or the planetary gods. These classifications of deities have been called various names and can connect to many pantheons and also can be classified on the Qabalistic Tree. They can be found in the seven archangels matching the days of the week, and in the seven classical planets – along with their intelligences and spirits.
Witches work with these planetary or astrological principles in magical spells and rituals when performing the priestly magic – that is, taking the astrological configurations & calculations into account when planning the ritual. This can be drilled down into the planetary/angelic hours, or by very least, the astrological influence ruling that day in conjunction with the lunar phases of the astral plane.
To work out and try to individually understand all these spiritual forces in the cosmos is not an easy thing to do. These forces, flavors, or key codes; can be (or not be) communicated with through the working out and understanding of the exploration of spiritual and occult study and phenomena.
This leads to the next point of what Art Magic says the Ancient Priesthood did; which is to discover the laws of man and attempt to adjust our actions to align with these divine or natural laws.
We do this in a number of ways. In our coven, we go back to our tenets, which lay out an occult philosophy to follow. These tenets are simple, such as the Tenet of a Balanced Life, Reincarnation, Harmony, etc. These are not designed to be parroted at anyone at a moments notice, but thought about holistically in all our areas of life in order to achieve a peaceful and harmonious existence with all things.
An activity that many of us have enjoyed greatly at the beginning of our path inward was the study of the Forty Seven Precepts of Cosmic Order, which is a contemplative exercise which includes a bit of journaling. The purpose of this is to teach correct thought and thinking, since witch power is directed by where we place our attention and thought, it is then important that we train ourselves on our own terms to achieve correct thought and to adjust our lines of thinking that will allow us success and to achieve the harmonious existence we seek for in all things.
Another way that occultists, and even those with Rosicrucian leanings did this (including many witches too!) was working to better understand and harmonize with a set of “Universal Laws” that were published in the amazing little book called “The Kybalion” by Three Initiates. (Though it was most likely written by William Walker Atkinson who passed on in the 1930s and was a major influence in the “New Thought” movement – which most Wiccans would not be out of step with. If you have ever uttered the idea that “like attracts like” or studied the “Law of Attraction,” then you familiar with some concepts that came out of the New Thought movement.)
Lastly, Art Magic states about invoking or soliciting the aid of higher existences. In witchcraft, we do this through the art of spellcasting and ritual. What separates an invocation and a prayer is that invocation is directed through a specific lens or power, a prayer is more of a request. Both are used by witches. In regards to ritual, each coven or tradition will have their own methods of conducting ritual.
However you form or make spells, or practice rituals, it seems the overall intention is the same no matter what the tradition: “To impose your will on something or someone which will create an effect for either higher or mundane purposes in order to change something in either the mental, physical or spiritual planes.”
If most of us are all honest with our own intentions, when we first set foot on the path of the witch/occult, spellmaking to change other lives for the better and our way is the reason that most of us decided to take up the magical arts and become a witch. Most do not take up witchcraft in the beginning to change or help humanity evolve – and if a newcomer tells me that, I am suspicious. The path of the witch always starts as a selfish one – we begin the process to change the world first by changing ourselves.
We all came to witchcraft with the same end-goal, we have just all found different paths – some harder, some easier; in order to learn how to impose our will in the world in a purposeful, and hopefully beneficial way.
Britton, Emma & William. Art Magic
Farrar, Janet & Stewart. The Witches’ God
Farrar, Janet & Stewart. The Witches’ Goddess
Giovinco, Casey. Garbed in Green
Three Initiates. The Kybalion