19th March 1988
Happy Eostar! It would be wonderful to see you for the weekend. Come in the summer, when the weather will be warmer and we will be more settled in. I think that you will like the house. And the town is very different from Avonford: much quieter, and the country seems to come in right through the door.
I don’t think I can give you the new lessons on the subjects that you’ve asked for in such a short time as one weekend. When it comes to your further learning, I think we should resume our old way of lessons in letter form. It does help me to have a record, as I have said before. And you will be able to take your time.
You have asked about the inner work of the witch. That mysterious word ’trance’ which I use now and then, what does it really mean? It has a direct connection with the power to cast spells. And it also means a state in which the future can be divined, and the spirits of nature communed with. By it, changes are wrought. But is it used outside of the circle, in ways which I haven’t yet told you about? Yes it is. Trance is the inner magic, felt communion with the sources of all our lives. It is also a means of transformation. For what is changed in trance, imaged or ’seen’ differently, is always followed by outer change, if the image is accompanied by sufficient emotional ’charge’. Do not forget this, for you can tamper with your own mood, for good or ill, in trance, and even with your own health, as has been discovered by alternative health therapists and psychotherapists worldwide.
To a witch, trance is the real essence and soul of all magic. And it is often undertaken where ritual is not yet appropriate — when the witch is unprepared for ritual and needs to meditate or to seek more guidance or to become sure of his or her purpose. And if the performing of rites is the outer work, then trance is the inner work that any witch must do. In trance, he or she can can always find the Goddess and God, and find the Way, anywhere, and not just at set times and within the magic circle. Trance is the witch’s real source of ability.
Before you had experienced the festivals of the turning year and celebrated phases of the Moon, you had no signposts for journeying in Inner Realms, no outer map from which to trace an inner one. And until you had perceived the Goddess as creator and sustainer of all life, with the God, her consort, as both co-creator and guide, you had no spiritual points of reference. I don’t mean at all to imply by this that those who are not witches have no spiritual reference points. There are other Ways. There are many other Ways. But to venture upon inner paths without any frame of reference, any true knowledge, is to risk emotional and psychic instability.
You may wonder if I exaggerate the dangers. I do not, for witness the young people who have opened psychic centres by the use of drugs in wrong circumstances and with no inner orientation or knowledge. Personalities have been shattered and damaged lives have been the result, for astral disintegration, a falling to pieces psychically, does manifest itself, is lived out in the ’real’ world, and in great pain and confusion. A witch need not run that kind of risk, for he or she encounters astral beings and events with knowledge and respect, and with psychic skills. That sense of the sacred, which is the first condition of respect, is innately yours. No one could truly be a witch without it. But the knowledge, as you have rightly said, is still something you don’t have. Nor do you have the psychic skills. I can teach these to you, and then you will be safe.
When you are experienced, you will no doubt take astral risks of your own choosing. They will be taken advisedly, on the strength of sound judgement. Meanwhile, I can be to you the teacher of basic techniques (be an inward-bound instructor?).
The first trance exercise may seem undramatic, after these warnings, but it is worth working at. I want you to lay down pathways and create a safe place to return to or go from, a clear sense of orientation.
You have already done some trancework at the Full Moons and festivals, and what I shall teach you at first is really very little different, though it will become more complex. The aim is to get beyond pre-planned routes, where everything is decided before you go into trance. Eventually, you will be able to travel and explore simultaneously, for the purpose of resolving conflicts in yourself, receiving guidance, metaphysical instruction or a healing, or for working magic of a most subtle kind, the ’dream spell’ kind of magic.
Just about every religion in the world makes use of trance and meditative techniques in one form or another. These soothe the logical mind, lulling it into quiescence, so that the transrational can appear and reintegrate. Mantras, mandalas, repetitive prayers and the rosary, drumbeating, drugs and special yoga positions are some of the many techniques used to gain altered states of consciousness. As solitary witches, we do it ritually by creating a sacred space and by dancing and chanting within it. But we can also move into the same ’lucid dreaming’ state by entering trance through a vizualisation, a mental routine that directs us inwards and deepens the consciousness, working as simple self-programming. In other words, the initial visualization instructs the mind, ’Turn inwards.’ And so we do. The best way to understand this is to try doing it.
As with any other magical activity, you must be free from interruption. Take the phone off the hook and put a sign on your door, if necessary, requesting all visitors to come back tomorrow. Dress warmly, as your body temperature will fall in trance. Heart and breathing-rate both slow down, as in sleep. Sit somewhere comfortable in a relaxed position. An easy chair with a fairly straight back is ideal for this. Do not cross your arms and legs. And now relax.
You may need to do a simple relaxation exercise, like the clenching and releasing of all muscles. Start with your feet, tightening all muscles up to your ankles. Hold tight and then let go. Move on up through knees and thighs. Clench each in turn, and then relax. Then the muscles in the stomach, buttocks, chest and shoulders. Each time, clench and relax, taking it slowly. Then arms and hands. Then neck and jaw. Finally, clench all the muscles in your face. Then clench everything and relax, all over.
This is a common relaxation exercise. And if you have another favourite technique, then by all means use it. In time, you will not need to use anything, but will be able to go into trance at will.
Now mentally cast a sphere of blue light around yourself, the same kind that you cast around your magic circle. Visualize it. Then say to yourself:
I cast around me now a sphere of blue light, like the cloak around our Mother Earth. May this protect me. I am of the Earth and sky, child of the Great Mother. May she and the Horned God, watch over me. May I be guided in Inner Realms, where endlessness of time and space is mirrored by reaches of furthest stars.
If this is too long, or if for any reason you don’t like it, make your own invocation, but along these lines.
You may wonder why you need to take your own atmosphere or protective barrier, just as if you were going deep-sea diving among piranha fish! Well, most of the time these precautions are not necessary. But sometimes, you will be thankful for them. Inner realms, you see, are created by the imagination. Or, to put it more accurately, they are both mirrored and perceived by it. But that does not mean that only your imagination and its products are to be encountered. Since imagination is the medium in which we meet any archetypal force, it transcends our own realizations. And the archetypal force may have been shaped into a being called an ’entity’. This is, in fact, a thought form ensouled with archetypal strength and nature. It will have an independent existence beyond your imagination, because the collective imagination goes on perpetuating it. You may also meet the imaginative products of the personal desires and fears of people close to you. As if this were not enough, you may meet the repressed aspects of yourself, those areas of being which you may have disowned and cut off, and which are prowling around, angry. Of course, the point of trancework is to reconcile or transform these situations. But it is not done by allowing to untransformed, unwelcome psychic visitors a kind of free posession of your psychic space.
True imagination is the realm of Ether, and what happens there determines physical reality. This, after all, is the basis of all magic. But conversely, the conditions of our lives affect imagination. The archetypes of militarism, for example, are strengthened by glorification of actual war. And images in pornographic videos feed archetypes of violence against women. The creation of an atmosphere of love and wisdom which goes with you and sustains you is therefore as advisable as the wearing of clothes in the street. And the requesting of Guardian Spirits to keep you clear and calm is really common sense. The Inner Realms are not all sweetness and light, for if they were, the whole world would be innocent and we could all go home to the Summerlands, our manifest existence over (until the next cycle?).
If your trance is not to be especially deep, but is a matter of a simple request for guidance over some decision that must be made at once, then the blue sphere of light will be enough. But for more serious trances, I shall repeat, you should also invoke the protection of the Guardian Spirits of Air, Fire, Water and Earth, as though you were constructing a full magic circle, but in your imagination. Make a request at each quarter, that they watch over and guide you. You may also visualize placing your offerings at each quarter, as when you are casting a spell outside of the circle. See incense, candle, water and stone. Ask the Guardian Spirits to go with you, until the trance is ended.
The blue sphere will remain around you after you have ceased to visualize it. You are not meant to see everything through a blue haze. Simply state that it is there. In the realm of Ether, existence follows thought immediately. Because you have given thought, it will remain there, just as long as you have said it should.
That done, visualize that the floor you are standing on is no longer of carpet or wood, or of bare boards or stone. You are standing on green grass. There are no walls around you; instead there are tall trees. And you are now within a clearing in a wood. There are leaves on all the trees and the birds sing. Here, you can meet with your familiar spirit, prepare for further journeying or be at peace. There are wildflowers among the grass. Walk around and look and smell the breeze and hear the birds sing. Hear the sound of wind in trees. Overhead, there is blue sky. Take off your shoes. The grass beneath your feet is fresh and the Earth upholds you. Feel the Earth’s energy pouring up through the soles of your feet, filling your body. You feel strong, you are yourself, witch and priestess, dressed in your robes. Your hair is loose and your athame is in your belt.
There is a wooden altar at the north side of the clearing. On it, there is wine in a chalice and bread on a wooden plate. Point your athame at the wine and then state in the names of the Triple Goddess and the Horned God that it must reveal its true nature, and demand that that nature be shown. If the wine then glows with a brilliant light of gold, silver, white or rainbow colours, you may pick up the chalice and drink the wine. But if it is murky and stagnant-looking, ask the Guardian Spirits of Fire to assist you. They will at once create a fire in the clearing, like a camp-fire, small and contained, but glowing. Fire is the element of swift transformation and purification. What you are doing here is to change your religious emotions from unfulfilled and unhappy feelings to joyful ones. By religious emotions, I mean primarily that sense of communion with all the natural world which is the main Pagan spiritual impulse. The chalice contains communion wine and the bread is, of course, communion bread.
Repeat the same procedure of ’checking out’ the true nature of this bread and also place this into the fire if it looks dull or mouldering. But if it shines with a brilliant light, then eat it.
What to do if bread, wine or both have gone into the fire? Wait a while and they will reappear on the altar. Check each one again. It is most likely that they will be all right this time. If they are not, then you will have the basis for a meditation on whether you are suddenly uncomfortable with Pagan worship, and if so, why? You may need to come out of trance while you think about this or stay in your inner place while you ponder. (If you do come out, then you must follow the usual routine for opening the circle and for sealing your own aura. But I shall describe this, shortly.)
More probably, the bread and wine will be shining. As you drink and eat, feel the life of the woodland around you. Birds in trees, and moles and mice and all small creatures in burrows. Butterflies and spiders and flies. Worms and the unseen bugs and beetles, and beneath the earth, rocks, underground streams. All around you, the flowers and trees and the nature spirits, those who tend the woodland and watch over you — for you are also of the Earth, child of Mother Earth.
When you are ready, say a silent prayer of thanks to the Goddess and God. Leave the chalice and plate on your altar. (Whenever you come back to them, they will always have been refilled.) Take a farewell look around at the woods and then feel the earth becoming floor again. You are returning to the circle you had cast around you, in your room. Thank the Guardian Spirits of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Bid them Hale and farewell.
Draw the blue circle in around your body, so that it follows the contours of your own shape, like a second skin about three inches deep. Visualize a skin of gold light over that. State:
This aura of blue light that is edged with gold shall remain with me now, as I go forth into the world. In the names of the Triple Goddess of the Circle of Rebirth, and of the Horned God, may I be protected, as the tree is by her bark, the fox is by her fur, and as the Earth is by her blue atmosphere. So may it be.
Add anything else that you may wish to say, or else make your own prayer. Slowly open your eyes, and get up, slowly.
That is enough for a first trance outside the circle. As you can see, it is far simpler than the one you undertook at your initiation. The entry is more complicated, because you do not have the physical routine of casting a circle, nor the process of invoking the Goddess and God, to turn your consciousness to Inner Realms and to attune you to the presences of the deities in everything. On your return, you do not have a magic circle to come back to, either, just a room in the everyday world. You must therefore ease your way in and out much more carefully.
I must stop now, or this letter will become a thesis! Write and tell me how you got on, and when I may expect your visit.