20th March 1988
I have more to write today, so I have decided to send this in the same envelope as yesterday’s letter. It does seem a good idea to send a lot of information all at once. You will not want to make one small experiment in trance, and then reply to me by post and perhaps wait weeks before you can try out the next stage. I will send you the lessons in batches. You can reply by phone instead of letter, and that will speed things up a lot. I know I told you not to rush this all in one weekend, but on the other hand, I do not want you to feel held up.
I will have to anticipate your questions, as you have not yet seen the letter that I wrote yesterday. So I’ll imagine you are saying, ’But I thought trance was more than just picturing and visualizing.’ So it is. But these preliminary ventures in the creative use of imagination are important. They are practices you will always need.
After a while, things will start happening in trance ’on their own’. Perhaps a unicorn walks out of the woods, without you having consciously decided to imagine it. This is like having a dream, although you are always awake. But it is not like an ordinary daydream. The colours you see will be more intense and the images of an extra-clear delineation. In fact, it is like those visions seen on the edge of sleep, and must come from the same source. But where as edge-of-sleep visions happen spontaneously, trance is a deliberately invoked process. The picturing of things is always an aspect of trance, and always will be. It is the means of invocation, the way you begin a trance, and it is also your contribution while it goes on, your psychic creativity.
It is important to realize that you are never ’taken over’, and so conscious choice about what you see or do always remains real. A witch never loses consciousness in trance (unless she or he accidentally falls asleep!). You will not lose contact with your physical surroundings. You will certainly not become ’possessed’ merely because you are in a trance state. You will not behave like one of those mediums portrayed on television, who re-emerge into consciousness unaware of what they have said or seen, only to be told by an astonished audience that such and such a dead person spoke through them. No such thing will happen to you. For a witch, trancework means something quite other than that. Any dead people whom you may happen to meet will be speaking for themselves, inside you, as in dreams. But because you are fully conscious, you will be able to relay the information to any third person who may be watching over you in trance, in the same room.
If alone, be assured that if a child wakes up upstairs, you will hear them at once.
As I have suggested, trance, edge-of-sleep visions and dreams are all much alike, and they must come from the same source. But dreams, at least for most people in modern Western culture, are entirely passive. The dreamer has no conscious choice about the events or outcome. And even actions taken by the dreamer have an involuntary feeling. In trance, the dreamer is awake. Therefore conflicts are resolved, by an active participation; choices are made and actions taken consciously; and sometimes this is done by ’imaging’ for a known purpose.
Trancework unites the passivity or receptivity of dreaming with the potential activity and self-assertion of waking consciousness — and reconciles them. Too much of the old knowledge about it is still unrecovered. But it is certainly the solitary witch’s main source of power in terms of magic. (By power, I mean the power to do, not power over; I mean ability, not domination.) Trance is also the solitary witch’s means of self-integration, regeneration, psychic rebalancing and spiritual exploration. It is her communion with the Goddess and God, her spiritual pathway and door to transcendence.
Trance also has much in common with dreams in that my trance, my inner world, will not be yours. While I can give you knowledge of techniques and show you how to start, your experience of Inner Realms will be unique. You may go to the psychic equivalent of China, while I may go to Iceland, or stay here in Britain. Furthermore, the inner world is much the same as the outer one, in that while we are all in the same Universe, we each feel and experience it for ourselves. This means that once I have taught the basic techniques of trance, you may take inner journeys to places I have not seen, or experience the places that I have seen in ways very different from mine.
If anyone tries to impose their psychic experience, or their rationale about it, upon you, then you should regard them with deep suspicion. There is no such thing as the One True Way. (Please never think that I am teaching it.)
For the next exercise, you should sit or lie comfortably, as before. Lying down is more likely to lead you to fall asleep, if you are already tired. But that doesn’t really matter. Regard it as another kind of healing if it does happen. Then thank the Guardian Spirits when you wake up. Ask the blessing and the guidance of the Goddess and the God upon your life, and draw the blue light in around yourself, as at the end of trance. If you fell asleep, then you must have needed sleep, and can try going into trance on another occasion.
After you have visualized your blue sphere and invoked protection, feel the forest floor beneath your feet. As before, walk there on green grass and amongst flowers. Look and see if you are wearing your witch’s robe, or whatever clothes you were given at your initiation trance. If not, look around the clearing till you can see them. Take everything else off and put the robes on. This is an affirmation of your role as witch and also helps you further to transform from everyday consciousness and to evoke psychic skills. It is something you should do at the beginning of any trance.
Now walk into the woods that lie to the east of your clearing. They will soon thin out and you will find yourself on the edge of an escarpment, looking east. There is a fresh breeze. Breathe this in and then call on the Guardian Spirits of Air, asking them to carry all false ideas and unhappy thoughts away, dissipating them harmlessly. Feel the fresh air fill your lungs, till the energy runs through your veins and you are now alert and clear-headed. Look into the great expanse of sky that you can see from the escarpment. You may see the Guardian Spirits of Air. If not, request them to appear for you. Then you will see one or more of the Guardian Spirits of all that is young, fresh, of the morning, of waxing Moons and springtime and all beginnings. Ask if there is anything that you need to understand about them. The answer may be something that you can see, for you may be shown a symbol. Otherwise, you may hear a voice or else sense the answer. If you do not understand, ask further questions. Finally, give thanks for this and also for the purification of Air, which you have just been given, and go back to the clearing.
Now go into the woods to the south. You will find a place where Sun strikes through the trees, in a shaft of golden light. Ask that all unease, disease and harmful energy be transformed. As you stand there, feel it burned out of you, as in a fever, but more gently. You are glowing with the energy of Fire, received from the greatest source of Fire we can conceive of. Within the shaft of light, you may see the Guardian Spirits, or one of them. They are of passion and vitality and the prime of life, midday, Full Moon and the element of Fire. Everything bright, glowing and energetic is theirs. Ask if there is anything you need to understand about them.
You may be puzzled as to how the Sun can be the God, and also be an expression of Fire and its Guardian Spirits. The answer is, of course, that the Sun is not literally the God, but is one way the God manifests himself, by means of Fire. The God, the Father of All Life, is the Sun King, the Green Man, the Horned God, and there is something of him in all animal life, and in every man. As Father Nature, he may easily be understood as the Sun, just as the Goddess may be perceived as the Moon or as oceans.
Then leave by a path which goes west. The earth slopes gently downhill now. You will see a spring which feeds a small pool. From this a stream runs downhill and the water is clear, silvery and sparkling. Bend down and drink some, calling on the Guardian Spirits of Water to cleanse and refresh you. Ask them to wash away all false images, all fears and bad dreams. Ask them also to revive you, as witch and priestess. Sprinkle yourself with water, especially on the crown of your head.
Look into the water and around the pool. You may see the Guardian Spirits of Water, or one of them. They may be in the pool, or sitting by it. They are of poetry, magic and dreams. They are of evening, waning Moons, maturity and autumn, but will not look old, for they are ageless. And they are of the seas, lakes and pools and springs and wells. Ask if there is anything you need to understand about them. When you have received the answer, give thanks for it and also for the purification of Water. Go back to the clearing.
Last of all, go into the woods to the north, round behind where your altar is standing. Here you will find a flat-topped rock, which is set firmly in the earth. Sit down on this rock and ask for a cleansing. Call on the Guardian Spirits of Earth. Feel all tiredness, disease and harm drain from you, as the stone takes it. Ask that it be transformed into that which shall feed life. Picture all that drains from you sinking through the stone, down through its root and into earth, deep into earth. Here it will be transformed just as leaves are, or as compost is formed in your garden. Close by, you may see the Guardian Spirits of Earth, or one of them. They are of power and endurance, the Dark Moon, midnight, winter and age, of mountains and all physical creation. Paradoxically, they are of fertile fields and of orchards rich with fruit: all the processes of birth and death and of earthly life. Ask them if there is anything you need to know about them. When you have understood, give thanks for this and for the purification of Earth, which you have just received. And go back to the clearing.
Ether, the fifth element, is centre and circumference, everywhere and nowhere. As you stand within your clearing, you are already within the realm of Ether, being in trance. Find the approximate middle of your clearing, and ask the Guardian Spirits for purification and reintegration. When it comes to the purification of Ether, I usually see a vision of the starry sky and its endlessness. I sense infinity. You may have some other experience. When it is done, ask the Spirits of Ether if you may understand them. It is they who make your vision of the other spirits possible, and yet they are themselves quite nebulous. Give thanks for the understanding and purification.
And now for reintegration and centring. Here, I generally affirm myself as witch and priestess. I ensure that I am carrying my usual staff, am wearing my robe, and so on. I acknowledge myself as child of Goddess and God, upheld by all the elements. Earth energy is rising up through my feet, coursing through my whole body, and then overflowing and fountaining so that it returns to earth — thus making one continuous earth current, one circuit. Air flows in and out of my lungs from all around the wood. Fire and Water are held in a balance, within my being. And so I am ready. I am renewed and strong to return into the mundane world, or else to continue in trance.
This five-fold purification of the elements, and final centring, is very healing to the psyche. It can also improve your health, if done often. And it allows you to deepen in trance gradually, and so prepares you for what follows. But it does also stand on its own, and you may now feel that you have had enough. If this is so, then return from trance. Come back in the same way that I described yesterday, seeing yourself within your room again, surrounded by your blue sphere. Thank the Guardian Spirits and the Goddess and God, and then draw the blue light edged with gold in around you. The first trance meeting with your familiar spirit, which I am about to describe to you, can be undertaken when you are next ready.
If you are ready now, and quite prepared to go on, do not return from trance. You have been attuned, by the purification of the five elements, for what comes next. Remain where you are at the centre of your clearing.
You are now about to invoke the presence of a familiar spirit. This does not have to be the traditional black cat, for a familiar spirit is just another name for a spirit guide and companion in animal form. You will have heard that some witches have manifest familiars. Generally, these are dogs or cats with whom they commune and who may alert them, psychically, to unseen presences. Your spirit familiar may be any kind of bird or animal at all. But its role may be much the same as that of the incarnate familiar. It can accompany you in all future trances, show the way to spirit places you may choose to visit, and can guide and give many kinds of assistance.
Ask in the names of the Goddess and God that your own spirit familiar shall come to you. Say something like,
Between the worlds, I call upon you,
my spirit familiar. By Air, Fire, Water
and Earth, I now call upon you.
In the names of the Triple Goddess of the
Circle of Rebirth and of the Horned God,
I call upon you.
As witch and priestess, I now call upon you:
be here now, my familiar spirit.
Now assist me in my true need.
I call upon you, that you now come to me,
spirit familiar, my friend and guide.
From the Goddess, come to me here.
As I am witch and priestess, my friendship
I now do offer to you. Be here now.
(Of course, there is no need to memorize all of this. Simply say something like it, in your words.)
An animal or bird will now appear before you, your own familiar. It is up to you to form a bond with this being. But if your familiar is truly your friend, it will not be offended if you now point your athame and demand to see it in truth. If your creature responds by glowing with gold, silver, white or a rainbow light, then greet it with love. Tell it who you are, giving your magical name. Make it welcome. Ask its name.
If the creature is not your true familiar but a false guide, visualize a cloud of pale golden light, like the late-afternoon Sun. Point your athame at the animal and then demand that it go into this cloud at once. State firmly, in the names of the Triple Goddess and the Horned God, that it shall do so. Ask that once within this cloud it shall be taken to wherever it most needs to go, to receive the healing and transformation that it appears to need.
The gold cloud will gently disappear and you will find that the creature has gone too. The same technique can be used to banish anything that feels wrong at any time. You are likely to need it.
Occasionally, you may encounter some kind of astral entity that will not respond to your demands to go into a cloud of gold light. Call upon the Goddess and God for help, or upon the Guardian Spirits of Fire. The situation will either be swiftly taken from your hands, or else you will be given extra psychic energy and enabled to deal with it. If you ask for help in a psychic emergency, it is always given. I have never known or heard of a situation where it was not given.
Repeat your invocation and checking procedure until you have a true familiar, and have welcomed them. Remember to ask the name, so that in future you can summon your familiar at any time.
Does the familiar have an objective existence of any kind? Or is it a thought-form you yourself have created, your image of what a familiar is like? Or is it your instincts, seen by your imagination, and personified as animal or bird? I think that any answer is possible, some familiars falling into one category, some into another. But though this is of interest, it is not vitally important. What matters is how you and your familiar get on. In witchcraft it is results that matter, and felt experience as result.
To base any religion upon a belief system is to invite rigidity and to risk an entrenched position. This is because all beliefs are based upon logical constructs and they tend to ignore the transrational and transcendental reality.
Ask your animal guide to tell you what you most need to know now; to give you the most useful message or piece of knowledge for you, in your life at this moment. As with the Guardian Spirits, you may be answered in symbols. Strange objects may appear within the clearing. These will have some symbolic meaning, and if you cannot understand then you must tell your guide, and ask for more explanation. You may also sense or hear the answer. It may come ’telepathically’.
Now ask your animal guide if there is anything he or she needs from you. When you have received the answer and responded, bid him or her Hale and farewell.
Then feel the earth become a floor again, and see your blue sphere around you. Thank the Guardian Spirits and ask the Goddess and God to watch over you. Draw the blue sphere in around your body. Visualize its gold edge.
Slowly, open your eyes and then begin to move. Slowly stand up.
That was a longer trance than the first, and you may need to eat or drink something to make your body feel completely real again, and thus to ’earth’ you.
When you are ready, make notes about this trance. Record it in your Book of Shadows. Include your understanding of the Guardian Spirits; also mention anything unexpected that may have happened, your familiar’s name and any guidance he or she has given.
One last word about familiars. They can leave you. Then a new one takes their place, if you make your request again. When they go, it may be because you have changed, and are thus no longer able to work well with that guide. Or it may be that the being that you think of as ’your’ guide has now been given some other task, unbeknownst to you. In the event, bid them farewell with thanks, and then make new bonds with the new one.
In trancework, you must both transcend logic and remain sceptical. You can reconcile these opposites in playful exploration, remaining serious about your aims and goals — which are: a spiritual communion with the Goddess and God; self-knowledge and self-integration; and the development of psychic skills, so that you may fulfil your role as witch and priestess.