The practice described below is personal; for just as anyone fluent in a language will speak it somewhat differently from everyone else, so anyone who has passed the initiation of the second degree does so by the emergence of a knack, or personal style in witchcraft. So what is described below is intended as a model only. This is how I practice the Craft on a daily basis; what is your way?
The second point here is that this is daily practice only. Esbat rituals, sabbats, following the Anglo-Saxon or Ogham calendars, and such, concern what one does at longer intervals.
Finally, as the author is a solitary (though involved with a coven at a distance), the practice described herein does not concern itself with problems of coven craft or the practice of collective skills. This is what I do myself, more or less, on a daily basis as a witch practicing alone.
Outdoors or Indoors?
If you have a place outside where you can practice witchcraft, that is ideal. Next best is to live in a round house like a yurt, or an Indian hogan or tepee. If you have to live in a square or rectangular dwelling, and have only casual access to the outside, saying a prayer to the Sun or Moon, for instance, as you sit or walk out of doors, then you must compensate for the square shape. For “there is no power in a square,” as an old Sioux chief once remarked sadly on the reservation.
Why is there no power in a square? Because typically we face one of the walls, not one of the corners, and this encourages us to divide the things we can see in front of us from the things to the side, and to give too much attention to the former, with only occasional attention to the latter. This does not occur when we are in a circular area. The world as we experience it is a circle, or a hemisphere, counting the dome overhead. In a circle we let our attention go out to the periphery of vision, taking in everything equally.
Pagans living in square dwellings used to invoke their ancestors and other spirits from out of a corner, because when we face a corner, we naturally spread our attention to peripheral things, things seen to the side.
So if we must live in a square or rectangular dwelling, then we should make a conscious effort to expand our visual attention to the periphery. This can readily be done by keeping our apparent headlessness in view. The fact is, we cannot see much of our heads, apart from a blur for the nose and perhaps long eyelashes in sunlight; but we generally ignore this. Some cultures picture shamans as having no heads. This refers to the way they see themselves, not each other. If you keep your headlessness in view, you will spread your attention to the side and this will partially compensate for living in a square dwelling.
One ethnologist, speaking of the Amerindian’s typical sphere of silence, in which he contacted his gods, cautioned that without growing up in their cultural milieu, this state of mind could not be attained by a non-Amerindian. But fortunately for us, C. G. Jung acquired inside information about this matter when he visited Pueblo Indians in Taos and spoke with a chief named Ochwiay Biano, Mountain Lake. 1
“Their [white men’s] eyes” Mountain Lake said, “have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are mad.”
Jung asked him why he thought so. “They say that they think with their heads,” the chief replied.
“Why of course. What do you think with?” Jung asked him in surprise.
“We think here,” said the chief, patting his heart.
If we see our headlessness, the closest part of our body which comes into view is our chest region. This is where we have feelings, and as our feelings usually precede or accompany our thoughts, it is natural to suppose that we are thinking with that part of ourselves. The point of this is that the Amerindian thinks and perceives at the same time, whereas we tend to oscillate between the two. He only directs his eyes to specific objects when he has reason to do so. He does not track compulsively, as we have been raised to do. Thus he lives in a bubble, coterminous with the horizon when outside or with the boundary of his round dwelling when indoors, a bubble that is generally silent, in which he can contact his gods.
Last Night’s Dreams
The writer is retired and has lots of spare time, and recognizes this is hardly the case for most people in the Craft, who are younger and have to spend long hours at a job. Perhaps you wake up to an alarm, which all but erases dreams of the night before. Keeping a dream journal requires a period of quiet upon awakening, and awakening should be gradual. Few of us have the opportunity to keep such a journal.
Nevertheless, your journal of Craftwork should begin each day with some reference to last night’s dream, or dreams. Just jot down a short descriptive phrase, capturing, if you can, an image (it will likely be the last image before waking) from last night’s dream. If you cannot recall anything of the sort, make a note of the feeling you woke up with, or anything else connected with the dream, such as a waking tune. Or make a quick sketch in your journal, trying to capture the flavor or impression of a dreaming scene.
For the witch, as for pagans in general, reality comes in two flavors: waking and dreaming. Waking is what we experience when the physical body is alert and active, and dreaming what we experience when it is dormant and resting. Dreams seem to be subjective because they are 99% subjective most of the time for most people. When we dream, we tacitly accept what is happening and never question its reality. It hardly ever occurs to us in a dream that our body is resting somewhere in a bed.
But there are times in our dreams when we realize we are dreaming. This realization admits of many degrees of lucidity, and it is generally lost almost immediately, either by lapsing into an ordinary dream or by waking up. We may decide to gain some leverage with dream characters in the current situation by telling them this is only a dream. Doing so quickly leads to a loss of lucidity, or lucidity itself becomes a theme of the dream and is re-woven into the patterns of the dream-plot.
In waking life we are forced to deal with physical reality, but we often see waking events through a filter of mental subjectivity. Psychologists describe this when they note that we go on dreaming while awake. This layer of subjective activity is usually not strong enough to separate us from the physical world, but it has great influence on how we feel and think and perceive the world around us, and also how we make decisions.
In order to go on astral journeys, 2 whether from dream or waking, it is necessary to liberate our consciousness and will from the influence of these subjective dreams and subjective wakings. Thus, in addition to the two states of dream and waking, we must recognize a subdivision into lucid and non-lucid dreaming, and lucid and non-lucid waking. Pagans throughout the world and history have believed we have more than one soul. Michael York, in Pagan Theology, 3 calls them the life-soul and the dream-soul, but it would be more accurate to call them the sleeping soul and the lucid soul. The lucid soul is silent and sees the world through the eyes of the sleeping soul, in either the waking or dreaming state. The sleeping soul talks to itself and only when it quiets down is it possible for the lucid soul to stir itself and look around. Then, whether awake or dreaming, it is free to go on astral journeys.
When we begin to be lucid in the dream state, we recall, to some degree, the fact that there is another state called waking, and this isn’t it. Similarly, when we begin to be lucid in the waking state, we recall, to some degree, the fact that there is another state called dreaming, and this isn’t it. In both instances, we no longer take our current experiences tacitly as reality, but contrast them with the other state, whether dreaming or waking.
This is the purpose in jotting down briefly what you can recall of last night’s dream or dreams. It serves to keep a place in memory throughout the waking state of what occurred in the previous dreaming state. It offers waking a small point of contrast that prevents us from taking waking tacitly as reality but instead as a mode of consciousness. Of course, most of what occurs in waking is reality; what the contrast helps us to do is to step back a little bit from the subjective activity screening our awareness while awake. As a result, we confront physical reality more sharply and nakedly. This is the beginning of lucid waking.
While beginning to dream lucidly, one will enter into a contest with the subjective dream, which will trick us again and again into forgetting we are dreaming. It does this by raising subjects and concerns which also preoccupy us while awake. Writing down an impression of last night’s dream therefore also serves a divinatory purpose, for it teaches us about the matters that capture our focus while dreaming or awake, immersing us more deeply in subjectivity.
Noting the Phase of the Moon
Following the different lunar phases properly belongs to Craft work of a different interval, that of the lunar month, and is excluded. But checking on the lunar phase and writing into the Craft journal is a daily task. A calendar recording the phases of the Moon is a necessary tool of witchcraft. Llewellyn publishes an attractive Witches’ Calendar. You can also check the phase for today online, but that is less magical. In any case, in your journal note the calendar date and lunar phase, and any other calendrical information you follow.
Finding Your Spot
Indoors or out of doors, the witch must find her spot. This is the place where she feels grounded and centered, and for her it is therefore the center, either of her dwelling or of the world. If you have an easy chair set up somewhere in your living room, this may be your spot, provided it is not placed against a wall. Mark your spot with a piece of tape or something similar if you must, though it is enough to note how you feel there and let that be your marker. Now, standing on your spot, use your magnetic compass 4 to face the four directions. Gaze into each direction rather than looking. This means to let your eyes face north, east, south, west in turn but do not track on any object in those directions; instead, see everything there is to see equally in each quarter.
The associations with the four cardinal directions, in many witchcraft traditions, are as follows:
North – Earth, the power to be still, silent, steadfast.
East – Air, the power to know, understand, express your knowledge.
South – Fire, the power to will, enthusiasm, sacrifice.
West – Water, the power to dare, seek new life, the unknown, initiation.
Each morning, stand on your spot and mentally salute each of the directions in turn, beginning in either the north or east, and finishing with the direction you started with. Ask for help during the day to embody the powers of north, east, south and west. You can pray “Help me to know, help me to will, help me to dare, help me to be still” as you face each direction, ending with “Help me to know” again as you face east; or you can begin “Help me to be still,” and so forth, ending with that same prayer, as you finish by facing north.
Take your magnetic compass with you and use it to face in the appropriate direction and ask for help from the elementals of a particular quarter when you feel the need.
Taking a Ritual Bath
If you are so fortunate, in these barbarous times of quick showers, to own a bathtub, preferably one large enough to bathe in rather than just serving as a catch-basin for the shower, take a ritual bath. This is a late night thing to do. You will need a candle, salt (sea salt is best), and a small dish for holding the salt.
Light the candle, saying “Honor to fire.” Turn off all other lights and begin filling the tub.
Taking the dish of salt in your receptive hand, pour some salt from the dish into your projective hand, hold it at your heart, then fling it into the water, saying “I purify by the Maiden.”
Pour more salt into the palm of your projective hand, hold it over your heart as before, then fling it into the water, saying “I consecrate by the Mother to” and name some desired quality you want more of, such as balance.
Repeat the above, saying “I charge by the Crone.”
Repeat the above, saying nothing. This cast is for the Dark Moon.
Bathe leisurely, getting thoroughly clean. When finished, stand and thank the water elementals, naming the desired quality again, for example:
“I thank the Undines for balance.”
Step out of the bath and towel dry. Then say: “Honor to the Maiden, honor to the Mother, honor to the Crone, honor to [saying nothing].”
Snuff out the candle, saying “Honor to Fire.” Meditate a few moments, that is, pay attention to your feelings without thinking.
Balancing the Four Powers
The overall aim of witchcraft is to develop the four elemental powers in balance. These are the power to know, the power to will, the power to dare, and the power to keep silence or keep still. They are regarded as the inner elemental powers of Air, Fire, Water and Earth, respectively. When they are sufficiently developed in a balanced way, a fifth elemental power emerges, the power to go, which means the power to go on astral journeys. The witch travels down the inner pillar to the various Underworlds, eventually reaching her root-soul in the Summerland.
The Sun-wheel can provide a simple guide to balancing our everyday activities. The witch, here as elsewhere (though not in all circumstances), begins in the North and proceeds sunwise through the East, South and West, finishing in the North once again. This is because the power of the North manifests in two ways, physically as well as mentally.
In order to truly keep still, the body must be well exercised on a regular basis. The witch exercises regularly and moderately. Her exercise may include yoga or ch’i kung or various other psycho-physical cultures. They should always include some aerobic exercise. After some rest, or perhaps later in the day, the witch learns. Learning should take place every day, and as witches are nothing if not practical, learning is given first to practical subjects which will secure or advance one’s mode of life in the world. Afterwards, the witch will learn something for the pleasure or spiritual elevation of the subject. It is important to do both, but to give priority to practical matters. Playing music, for instance, counts as learning, but unless one is a professional musician, it should follow bread-and-butter topics.
Next, the witch seeks to apply what has been learned somehow in his life. Practical learning should make a difference in how one lives, and even ideal or aesthetic learning can have a subtle influence on how one goes about the day. The power to will also enters into the learning process itself, especially where it is necessary to practice and review what has been learnt. We cannot count on enthusiasm alone to further our progress in some areas; we must practice persistence at times, a trait borrowed from the quarter of Earth.
The power to dare is the power to change how we do things, and to try out new things. This can range from holding our toothbrush with the other hand to finding a new route to work to making a new friend or investigating a new field of endeavor. The power to dare also enters into change of consciousness, which is part of circle ritual and special techniques practiced after attaining to the second degree of initiation. As water seeks the lowest point and flows without hesitation, so the witch cultivating the power of water looks for opportunities usually ignored because regarded as unimportant, and plunges into an adventure sometimes just for the hell of it.
Having rounded the Sun-wheel in this fashion, the witch returns to the North, and finding a good spot for it, sits and meditates. That is, she practices inner silence, not by blocking thoughts but by letting them arise and flow on without following them. This is the master power.
1 Jung, C. G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 248, Vintage Books, 1965.
2 The fifth point of the pentagram.
3 Michael York, Pagan Theology, New York University Press, 2003.
4 What? You don’t have one? Get one.