Frequently Asked Questions
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About the subjects
The difference, at least apparently, is that occultism represents the practices, while esoterism represents the beliefs and philosophies that are at the foundation of the occult techniques and practices.
Cornelius Agrippa (1486 – 1535) describes magic as being ‘a faculty of wonderful virtue, full of most high mysteries’ mixed with the nature, power, quality and substance and also the knowledge of whole Nature. He tells us that it’s effects are produced by ‘uniting the vertues (virtues) of things through the application of them one to the other’. In all, he describes it as ‘the most perfect and chief Science’
Another personality of great occult interest is Aleister Crowley (1875 – 1947) who affirms that magick is ‘the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.’ Crowley spelled magic with a K (magick) so that it won’t be confused with illusion/stage magic.
Given these two notions, we understand that it is a form of Science and Art that by the power of nature and the combination of it’s virtues it can cause Change in the world (internal and external) according to the Magician’s will.
Goetia, a 17th centure magical book (grimoire) starts in some manuscripts with the phrase: “Magic is the highest most absolute and divine knowledge of natural philosophy advanced in its works and wonderful operations by a right understanding of the inward and occult vertue of things, so that true agents being applied to proper patients, strange and admirable effects will thereby be produced.”
Witchcraft has different etymological versions. It comes from the old English word “wicca” or the Middle Low German “wicken” which are both used to describe that which enchants or puts under a spell (a magical use of words). In Romania, the word vrăjitorie (witchcraft) and vrajă (spell) come from the Slav word vraza, meaning superstition. It doesn’t have anything divine in particular, and in many cases it is associated with evil doings and “working with the Devil“. It’s loosely based on nature, secret and repetitive words with various vibrations or chants which are not usually understood even by the witch pronouncing them. It’s secretive, as a great part of the spell’s power consists in the mystery of the operation. It is repetitive and based on archaic words meant to produce a certain power of words to cast the spell, yet many times it is blind repetition of a given ‘recipe’, unaware of what the words mean or the process of the work. It is initiatic, which means it has to be taught or learned from another practitioner. It is practical yet it is ignorant in certain cases. It is ignorant for the fact that the mechanisms through which the effect is obtained are not known, it doesn’t use Words of Power as in the magical tradition or angelic, demonic or divine names and doesn’t know the significations of the ritual. Unlike the rather elevated goals of magic (obtaining knowledge, discovering secrets, conversation with the Divine, etc.) witchcraft is limited to simple goals (obtaining love, separating lovers, drying the grains, poisoning cattle, cursing enemies, etc).
Some clear differences are:
- Magic was/is practiced by an educated hierarchy, meaning priests or people of high ranks, cultivated people. Witchcraft is a pagan practice, meaning a practice of the of peasants (from the word paganus) which is learned by tradition and word of mouth.
- The practices differ. Magic is conscious of the processes of the practice through understanding the operation and of the elements involved. Witchcraft on the other hand is repetitive, automatic, without a full understanding of the practice.
- Magic is based on the Divine, on the planets, numbers, calculations. Witchcraft is based on nature, intuition, etc.
A detailed explanation of the difference between magic, or learned magic and witchcraft can be found in Stephen Skinner’s “Techniques of Solomonic Magic”, Golden Hoard Press, 2015, pp. 20-27. Here, the author gives detailed explanations of the differences between magic and divination, folk magic (as opposed to learned magic), astral magic and witchcraft.
These terms can either represent duality or the goal of the adept. In the case of Duality, LHP represents the negative or dark currents while RHP represents the positive or luminous currents. In the case of the goals, LHP represents the evolution to the rank of a god and the separation from Divinity, while RHP represents the union with Divinity.
For more details, read the Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path article.
We can say that Occultism helps you first of all to know the world from a new point of view. To cite an important supporter of Occultism, Carl Gustav Jung, “illumination is not reached by visualizing the light but by exploring the darkness”. Here however we must clarify that “darkness” is not synonymous with “evil” or the diabolical part.
There are many benefits that this “science and art” can bring, such as spiritual power, evolution (unitary and complete, from a physical, psychical and spiritual point of view), knowledge and in many cases, salvation and peace of unification with Divinity.
Occultism does not sell anything, and nobody tries to convince anybody to become part of it. Occultism fascinates us or does not, it calls us or it does not.
Traditionally it is needed an initiation done by either a Master or another Initate. This initiation consists of a ritual (symbolically, but also magically), in the preparation of the apprentice through specific exercises of spiritual, psychical and physical nature, etc, but not rare are the cases in which a solitary seeker can reach the same results through perseverance, seriousness and dedication to the chosen esoteric discipline.
The colors of the protective circle and the diagrams were introduced by Mathers, but the original did not contain or mention colors. There’s only the Almadel or Enochian magic that have such practices, but these are different system, revealed (at least theoretically) by the angels as they dictated. In Satanism there is no such thing as using other colors instead of black, as the tradition never mentiones any other colors but actually puts an accent on the black color of the candles, robes and everything connected. Thus, colors, especially those of the candles, are not part of the old, classical magic and you will not find them in the classical grimoires.
The correspondences and symbolism of the tools is not necessarily wrong, especially if they help you from a psychological point of which, but they do not have a practical purpose in classical magic. It is not wrong to compare them with other concepts such as the 4 or 5 elements, the 10 sephiroth, the 7 planets, etc. but they are not necessary. First comes the practical purpose. If a vessel is necessary for the holy water, the vessel itself is not the symbol of water, it is only a vessel. The cup is only a cup in which you pour water. The altar helps you to put everything you need so it can be at hand. The staff that needs to be pushed through the circle in order to give or offer things to the spirit does not represent anything, it is just a stick that helps you not to get your hand out of the circle. These are called tools because that is what they are, tools, and they have a practical purpose, not a symbolic or magical purpose.
Mircea Eliade tells us about this fact in his book “Shamanism. Archaic techniques of Ecstasy”, that: „As can never be sufficiently emphasized, nowhere in the world or in history will a perfectly „pure” and „primordial” religious phenomenon be found. The paleoethnological and pre-historic documents at our disposition go back no further than the Paleolithic; and nothing justifies the supposition that, during the hundreds of thousands of years that preceded the earliest Stone Age, humanity did not have a religious life as intense and as various as in the succeeding period. It is almost certain that at least a part of prelithic humanity’s magico-religious beliefs were preserved in later religious conceptions and mythologies. But it is also highly probable that this spiritual heritage from the prelithic period underwent continual changes as a result of the numerous cultural contacts among pre- and protohistorical peoples. Thus, NOWHERE IN THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS DO WE ENCOUNTER „PRIMORDIAL” PHENOMENA; for history has been everywhere, changing, recasting, enriching, or impoverishing religious concepts, mythological creations, rites, techniques of ecstasy. Obviously, every religion that, after long processes of inner transformation, finally develops into an autonomous structure presents a „form” that is its own and that is accepted as such in the later history of humanity. But no religion is completely „new”, no religious message completely abolishes the past. Rather, there is a recasting, a renewal, a revalorization, an integration of the elements – the most essential elements! – of an immemorial religious tradition.”
Wicca, as created by Gerald Gardner in the 40’s/50’s, is a neo-pagan religion based in most part on Margaret Murray’s book, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe and Charles Godfrey Leland’s book “Aradia, or the Gospel of Witches“. Murray’s book was an unexpected success, and from Eliade and other historians’ opinions, an undeserved success, because it was full of errors. Leland’s theories contributed to the birth of Wicca and Stragheria. Both Wicca developed by Gerald Gardner as well as Stregheria of Raven Grimassi were and are still vehemently contested by historians as well as practitioners. The Italians even deny the existence of a tradition called Stregheria. But as we well know, an attractive best-seller is easier to procure and “study” than academic material. A good example is “the wiches chant” or Eko Eko Azarak, published by Gerald Gardner in Gardnerian Book of Shadows. Although not based on anything precise other than the initial publication in the book The Black Arts (1921) which also didn’t mention the source, this “chant” was copied, modified and excessively promoted. We find it in numerous books as well as the lyrics of rock or metal bands such as Coven (in the track Satanic Mass) and Theatres des Vampires (in the track The Coven). To the present day, the count of variations has been lost.
For more information, see the article Medieval Witchcraft.
Weed (and not only) has been utilized in rituals for thousands of years, Egyptian priests using it frequently. O.N.A.’s Black Book of Satan contains a ritual called The Ceremony of Recalling (with sacrificial conclusion) in which the Priestess prepares cakes made from wheat, water, egg, honey, animal fat and marijuana. This particular drug could be the only drug appropriate for rituals, as it is not a hallucinogenic drug, but a psychoactive drug that does not affect the perception of reality, on the contrary, it amplifies your senses.
However, using other drugs can give the exact result. In Compendium Maleficarum, Guazzo tells us that the witches used an ointment of putrid ingredients and that they were carried away on a cowl-staff, or a broom, or a reed, a cleft stick or a distaff, or even a shovel. Other sources suggest that this ointment was hallucinogenic, giving them the impression that they were flying when they actually didn’t leave the room. An example is given by Richard Cavendish, speaking of the writing Golden Ass of Apuleius (125 BC – 180 BC) where it writes that a witch anoints her body with this ointment and recites a spell to transform into a bird. It is known from the 15th century that this ointment caused hallucination. John Nider writes in Formicarius about a woman who tested the ointment in the presence of witnesses. This caused her a deep sleep. When she woke up, she told them she was with Venus and Diana, but the witnesses declared she never left the room. The recipes usually included aconite and belladonna, baby’s fat and bat’s blood to aid nocturnal flight. Petru Culianu gives us further examples, such as Datura stramonium, Hyoscyamus niger, Atropa belladonna, aconite, Solanum nigrum, Physalis somnifera, Helleborus niger or Cannabis indica, used separately or in combination. Of these powerful narcotics, the most used where those of the Datura, also known as the Witches Weed.
Drugs in ritual practice are NOT a good idea especially if the person is not used to the drug and doesn’t know how to control it. This would have an opposite effect. In other words, the practitioner would lose focus, will become agitated, will have symptoms of nausea etc. All of this will have the contrary effect of controlling yourself and being aware of your surroundings. As for practicing solomonic magic under the influence of drugs, I really doubt that someone under the influence will be able to control the demon, the ritual or himself.