High and Low Magick

At my first Pagan gathering I was sitting around the sacred fire with the High Priestess of my coven and few others who, like me, were unwilling to move from the warmth of the blaze. When, a class just happened to be scheduled for that location began; the class was Magick 101. Since I was already there I decided to stay in my seat and listen politely to the instructor. The first thing the instructor did was ask each of the people around the fire their level of knowledge. Some people where members of different covens, others were solitary, and I was honest about being new to my coven and serious study. The next thing the instructor did was ask “What is the difference between High and Low Magick?”

Que me slinking farther in to my blankets and hoodie, it was going to be a long class discussing the same information I just wrote a three paragraph essay on for the woman equity buried in microfiber beside me. The instructor looked around the circle, and the second answer he received is one I remember shaking my head to. The High Priest of I don’t remember coddled his answer in the form of a story with an ending moral of High Magic was when you impose your will on someone else. I guess I was to noticeably surprised, or disused by the implications of his answer since I felt two pairs of eyes on me. My High Priestess wanted me to speak up and the instructor wanted the “new girl” to give a go. I untangled my moth from my cave of fuzzy materials to be heard and gave a short one sentence answer, before like a grumpy dragon retreating to her cave gave the instructor the floor to continue. I will not be giving you readers just the one sentence answer I spewed on that 19°F October afternoon. Instead lets brake down these forms of magick to understand better what they are.

Low Magick also referred to as Nature Magick, is any magick performed using tools of nature to incite change on this plane of existence. High Magick is ceremonial magick intended to bring the practitioner closer to deity. Normally very strict in performance or done on the astral plane. So, as you can see the high/low is not in reference to a hierarchy but the plane in which the magick is intended to affect. Almost all magick a witch performs can be considered Low Magick.

Historically speaking Low Magick was preformed by the healers and cunning folk of the village. You needed your crops blessed, your child healed, the pests out of your home; the magick preformed was to affect your plane of existence and preformed by someone of similar social standing as you. So, another way to look at why they are distinguished in High and Low is noticeable. High Magick took training and time, everything had to be preformed perfectly, and the magician was of high stature. Not to be bothered with issues of the common folk but communing with the Gods for King and State.

The first book Gerald Gardner published on Wicca was “High Magic’s Aid”. Published at the time as fiction, Gardner’s book divulged methods of Magick he learned from his time with the Golden Dawn, and how modern pagans open and release circle can be traced to High Magickal practices. So, where the distinction of high and low is not an indication of strength or one being better then the other, it does assist the practitioner in understanding the differences in both practices.

Blessed Be,

Autumn Wolfe

As always please feel free to comment and share! If you have any questions or wish to get in contact with me please email me at autumn.ironwolf@gmail.com

 

 

The Threefold Law is Not Karma

Sometimes referred to as The Rule of Three or The Threefold Return, when a Pagan describes The Threefold Law a comparison is often invoked, such as “it’s like Karma”. Where this comparison may be useful to help non-magical folk understand the basic idea of The Threefold Law; it is not accurate nor respectful to the people who believe in Karma. I believe we, as in Pagans, fall into using this comparison because of two things; we don’t really know what Karma is, and we are using an already respected religious principle to give ourselves validity. I myself have made this comparison and that is why I decided to do my research. What I discovered and hope to share with you is that The Threefold Law is not Karma.

idtukwim

So what is The Threefold Law? First seen in Gerald Gardner’s High Magic’s Aid (1949) “Mark well, when thou receivest good, so equally art bound to return good threefold”and popularized in Raymond Buckland’s writings The Rule of Three is a widely believed guide line in the Neo Pagan world. A more modern verse  “What you put out comes back to you three, times three, times three” written by Scott Cunningham in Wicca, A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. It is described as what ever action or intent you put out into the universe comes back to you threefold. The ‘what’ that comes back to you threefold is defined in a variety of ways, and can change from person to person or tradition to tradition.  Some of the ways the threefold return is believed to occur include; your output comes back in a set of three waves or three different thing happen, three times worse or three times better, or the effects are physical, emotional, and spiritual. If you poll the Pagan community you will find people who believe all of these interpretations work together, only one of them holds true for them, and people who don’t believe or follow in The Threefold Law at all.

rede
A version of The Wiccan Rede by Doreen Valiente

Karma is very different. Not as up for interpretation as The Threefold Law, Karma is a belief system held by many religious sects including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Sikhism. Coming from the Sanskrit word meaning action, work, and deed Karma is a spiritual principle of cause and effect, yes like The Threefold Law. Also, Karma holds that the actions and intent of individuals’ influences their future. That is where the similarities end. Karma not only effects the individuals future in this life but also determines their quality and circumstance of future lives. Karma has three themes that are seen in all belief systems that hold it; causality, ethicization, and rebirth.

These Karmic themes bring a level of sophistication that The Threefold Law lacks. Starting with causality which deals with the actions and intent. Causality explains for every action there is an effect on karma, intentional or not. Ethicization is the idea that like attracts like. So within Karma ethicization establishes similar return of the intent and actions the individual releases. The effects or return in Karma are two fold; phala and samskaras. Phala is the immediate affects and occur in this life. Samskaras are an affect that occurs to the individuals mindset that lessens the possibility for that individual to experience happiness in the future this life and others. So where some of these ideals are seen in other aspects of Neo Paganism they are not internally present in The Threefold Law its self.

karma
Like how there is Pop-Psychology there is a pop culture understanding of Karma 

 

We know the builders of Wicca were very aware of Eastern philosophy so it is no stretch to believe that The Threefold Law is borrowed in part from Karma, but the builders of Wicca were also constructing a new form of worship in a different culture. So, they might have left more up for interpretation or some ideals from Karma might have been lost in translation at that time. Later showing up as the religion aged. However, this lack or loss of ideas is not a bad thing when it comes to Neo Paganism. A large percentage of Neo Pagan practitioners  came to the craft because of the ability to discover and build their own prescriptive of their religion. This adaptability is the a major “selling point” so why tarnish its individuality by comparing?

What happens when we compare our religions to others is that we are not establishing ourselves on our own terms. If a non Pagan hears about Neo Paganism in the terms of “we are not like them”, “we are similar to them”, and so on. The speaker is relying on the listener’s understanding of these other religions and their feelings or bias of them. If the speaker misjudges the listener’s biases or exposure to the compared religion there will be miscommunication and misunderstanding. If the listener has the same knowledge and feelings of the compared religions as the speaker, then comes away with the ideas of Neo Paganism based on others and not its own belief system. If a comparison is unavoidable to us as speakers are then required to do a lot of ground work to avoid miscommunication.   A future topic will be on how to talk about Paganism with others so please look for that to continue this discussion.

A late but very blessed Beltane to all.

Blessed Be,

Autumn Wolfe

As always please feel free to comment and share! If you have any questions or wish to get in contact with me please email me at autumn.ironwolf@gmail.com