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Glimpses inside a Working Coven

previously published as a feature entitle “Coven Workings” in issue 13 of WitchCraft magazine

Probably careering about on the astral due to the psychotropic Flying Ointment, or the odd hallucinogenic toadskin in the witch-brew, our medieval counterparts engaged in mad midnight flights to the Sabbat atop the Bald Mountain, where they revelled at a wild ritual feast with beings half-animal, half-human. The astral travel of traditional shamans and witches tends to be concerned with life-forces, the fertility of wilderness and game, livestock and crops. It is likely that this overriding objective took them into those astral regions of Nature which seethed with the fertility of plants, animals and humans... in other words, “a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on” and a fair amount of sex.

Hallucinogens are not the only doorway, as dancing and drumming can also open up the astral vortex into the Otherworld, the realm of Faery. At one memorable Beltane Rite, I believe I “astrally stumbled” into such a region, when I used the Cone of Power dance to launch myself into an astral journey. After my physical body had dropped, my astral body just kept going. I suddenly found myself in a chain of half-human, half-animal beings, being dragged, running and flying up a steep mountainside. At the summit, a huge bonfire was blazing, and around it we danced, to incredible, wild music that made you want to dance forever.

I remember seeing a stunning naked woman who had feathers instead of hair, golden reptilian skin, and cat’s eyes of pale turquoise. The next minute, someone threw me into the fire, which flared green around me, but I stepped out again unharmed and kept dancing! On discussing experiences like these with other seasoned “elders of the witch-clan”, we decided that we had all independently been to the same place at various times, (including some old deceased friends), and agreeing that it was “one hell of an eternal party”, we dubbed it “the Ninth Sabbat”!

The “controlled ritual insanity” of the Wild Sabbat, the instinctive Dionysian side of magick, is seductively appealing to many suppressed Pagan souls needing to rebel against their conditioning. While the more experienced witch knows a little of the method behind the divine madness which burns at the core of Magick, it is still a power that works by laws we may not wholly understand. While such a ritual can surge along rather well, and leave the participants glowing and exhilarated, don’t imagine that the Ritual ends after you have farewelled the Quarter Guardians. Keep a watch on the events and energies well after the ritual, especially if it was a Sabbat where forms of the God and Goddess were invoked into a few key ritualists.

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Nine times out of ten, in brash youthful enthusiasm, those Priests and Priestesses have not had the “circuits of their personality” adequately prepared to handle the current of power those Godforms can deliver. Magick will amplify everything - the good, the bad and the ugly. If your life energies are not well grounded into constructive goals at the time of the ritual, then the invoked energies will express themselves in some area of your life where you need to learn a few things, just where you least expect it ! Trust me, I speak from experience.

The stories of the God and Goddess as they court, marry, lose, regain and transform each-other round the Wheel of the Year, are potent, many -levelled, and they are initiatory. This means that their stories will actually enter your life and create a “healing crisis”, bringing things to a head, which is not comfortable. It took me a while to “get with the programme” and make the connection between the Sabbat Godform-workings and the constant roller-coaster my love-life had become!

Witchcraft is a Fertility Religion, very primal and powerful, make no mistake, and this is where we have a responsibility to understand where our culture is now, how screwed up we are about sexuality and the real spiritual power (and therefore responsibility) that is behind it. You cannot import a fertility religion into a contemporary cultural mindset that has little respect and less understanding of, its real sacredness, not unless you want to be in deep fertilizer with some very powerful ancient forces. Natural magick is sexual; it’s about the voltage between opposites, polarities, the passion between the God and the Goddess that thrills through all creation on every level from Spirit to Matter. It is the Force, and that Force is Love, sacred in all its forms.

“Musical beds” and “High Priest/ess’s harem” can be a lot of fun when you’ve got more hormones than sense, but it can also create a lot of psychic debris and totally destabilize magickal work, since real Tantric adepts are rare in modern Witch leadership. To have a long-running Coven these days that has really got the juice and knows what it’s about, is truly an achievement.

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There is something very rewarding, however, about an intensely creative but short-running training coven, because everybody is usually driven by specific needs and very focussed on their purpose for being there. Out of this kind of formative crucible came the following Spellcraft experience:

One of Stephanie’s house-mates had done a “fly-by-night” with the household’s rent money, and had also stolen a lot of her clothes and C.D.s. As he was a junkie, the money would have disappeared down his veins straight away, but Stephanie placed great faith in my magickal ability to retrieve her possessions. I agreed to undertake the necessary Spellcraft Ritual, but only on condition that she worked it with me. I deemed it too advanced for the rest of the beginner group at the time, but I decided to enlist Gavin, a mutual friend who was a little more experienced.

From the moment I took on the task, the energy of the Ritual began to move - the steps of the ritual, the items needed, the words for the chants - all came together in my head lightning fast, which is very unusual for old “mull it over” me.

 I decided to put a Fetch on the stolen items. This involves sending a familiar, in this case, an artificial Elemental, but with an unusual twist I also decided to use a Fith-Fath (a beeswax image) to represent the thief so we could send the Fetch into his heart, so that he would want to give the possessions back. We agreed to meet up the following day, to make the Fith-Fath, learn our lines and do the Working in the evening. Stephanie was to bring some object link belonging to the thief, like hair out of his comb, or clothing, and some earth from the back yard of their house, to “earth his heart into hearth” and make him responsible for his actions.

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Next day, Stephanie and I started making the Fith-Fath, melting the beeswax and adding in the earth. Though she didn’t feel artistically confident about moulding a rough likeness of the culprit, I insisted that she at least handle the mixture. We were all feeling a bit wired and nervy, but Stephanie was about to climb the walls, saying that it was really spooky. Gavin arrived just as I was moulding what I thought was just any old male figure, while Stephanie jittered about, convinced that it looked “just like him!” The only object link she’d been able to find was a dirty sock, so I snipped a piece off it and tied it to the Fith-Fath’s feet, who by now was looking quite realistic, a reclining figure, arms slightly bent, knees slightly flexed, a suggestion of features on the face. The earth and beeswax mix is surprisingly resilient and workable, especially while it is warm.

Gavin and Stephanie are both Gemini, a star sign that can have a very open and childlike quality, which is excellent for working Spellcraft. I felt that I didn’t want to have the Fetch out for too long, so as it was just after the New Moon, we would only instruct the Fetch to do its work until the Full Moon, and thereafter dissolve back into Spirit. We agreed to do an Unweaving (reversal) of the Spellcraft just after the Full Moon.

That evening the two wide -eyed Gemini kids and I got down to business. After the Circle-casting, I enlisted their assistance while I consecrated the Fith-Fath with the Four Elements: “I bless thee with Earth, and give thee Form; I bless thee with Water and give thee a loving Soul; I bless thee with Air and give thee the breath of life and a clear Mind, (at this point Gavin exclaimed that he saw the Fith-Fath’s chest move!); I bless thee with Fire and give thee the flame of Will. I now bless thee with Spirit and give thee thy Name.” Gavin and I put our hands over Stephanie’s as she touched the Fith-Fath’s heart and we all sang his name, three times.

Using Etheric light, we built up a “pyramid of Manifestation” over the Fith-Fath and the Justice Tarot Card. Next, I very carefully moved my hands into the pyramid, and while the others chanted the Justice invocation, I built up the Justice-energy into a ball of light between my hands. When it felt vibrant and animated, we stopped the chant and I gave the Fetch its instructions, sending the little Being into the heart of the Fith-Fath and letting the pyramid dissolve. I carefully placed the Fith-Fath onto a velvet bed inside the Cauldron at the centre of the Circle. Singing a healing chant, we circled the Cauldron while blanketing him with rose petals, then covered the Cauldron with black velvet.

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After we had closed the Circle, we all heaved a huge sigh of relief, but we were speechless for a while at the sheer power of it. The whole thing had this peculiar momentum, like there were ball -bearings under everything! I told my colleagues to keep Magickal Silence on it, till we un-wove the Work.

After the Full Moon, when we removed the velvet, we couldn’t believe our eyes. I broke my Ritual composure with “For crying out loud, that Fith-Fath hasn’t changed its position... has it...?” The Gemini kids had eyes like saucers. The Fith-Fath had moved, from a flat laid -back position, the torso had flexed forward, like he was trying to sit up, and the right forearm had moved up slightly toward the heart. “That’s it,” I snapped, “Let’s get this thing unwound!”, and we did so, as fast as we could without being ritually offensive. I was especially careful, despite my haste, to reverse everything we did very carefully!

It is best to dispose of a Fith-Fath by breaking it up and dispersing it into a natural water source. As I couldn’t do this immediately, I placed it, wrapped up into the Cauldron for safe keeping. A few days later, when I finally got round to it, my hair stood on end - the Fith-Fath had already broken into pieces. I’d say that the Unweaving had been successful! And yes, Stephanie’s clothes and C.D.s mysteriously reappeared shortly after.

There endeth the story.

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