A Student wrote a question on the Strategic Sorcery Group this weekend that I think bears answering to a wider audience:
Question: how do you continue your practice when you can’t house any altars or any physical support gear nor burn candles and incense for offerings and workings? I had to break down and hide my supplies, images, statues as well as my altars (sadly in the midst of some powerful workings) due to the need to protect from destruction from those who would not approve… The only option I can think of is to wait until I get my own place to resume…
A lot of people find themselves in a living situation that they cannot practice openly. Sometimes because of relatives and roommates, and sometimes because of the state. Since starting the Strategic Sorcery course I have been floored at the amount of people that diligently practice the art in places that they could still be arrested or persecuted for it. Even those who can practice openly may find themselves in situations where they cannot practice with lots of equipment due to tight living quarters or extended travel.
Over the course of my career I have maintained a practice with virtually every conceivable scenario.
As a teen I started with stuff in a box and an altar that I would put together and take down for every working. When I came out as an occultist at 17 and my parents were cool, so not only did I built an altar in my bedroom but my parents built a stone circle in the NE corner of the back yard, complete with Gargoyles at the quarters. More space less secrecy.
Living in apartments with roommates left with little space for personal altars, but tons of space for large workings. Matthew Brownlee and I would clear the living room of furniture for everything from Goetic Evocations to OTO Initiations.
When I bought a house I finally had a dedicated Temple Room and kept money altars, Tibetan Altars, Sorcery Altar etc. I spread out all over. Then we had kids and I gave up the Temple room. and put a lot of stuff in storage. Started working with a small altar in the bedroom, and would set up larger altars as needed for special workings. – just like in High School. Now-a-days I am in the same house but I have a Bedroom altar for meditative stuff. A divination/Business altar right next to my desk. And a large shrine in the Garage that is sectioned off with curtain that I keep peoples active spells and candles on.
But ultimately I think that any Sorcerer worth their salt should be able to continue without any of it.
This was the advice that Khenpo Namdrol gave to me when I went showed him how I was streamlining a rather extensive ritual: “You have a commitment to do this practice regularly correct? How would you keep that commitment if you were in prison? How would you keep it if you had to travel without books? You must be able to practice even in these situations…
Here are some tips for those who have to keep their practice a secret.
- You are a Temple. Your mind is the innermost secret temple of practice. Your body is the inner temple. If having outer tools and an outer temple causes you to lose sight of this, than they are doing you no good at all. If you find youself unable to conduct outer ceremonies, that may be a sign to work on the mind and the body.
- Astral Temple. No longer fashionable to talk about but exceptionally useful. I go to mine on an almost daily basis, and have written before how I “discovered” part of it by accident which I believe to be a remnant from a past life (because there is no way in this life that I would choose Rococo as a design style For all kinds of rituals, evocation, and training for astral work the astral temple is excellent.
- Keep plain tools. Not every tool needs to have arcane sigils and names engraved upon them. Plain chalices, sticks, mirrors, etc do not draw much attention.
- Visualization. Another practice that seems to be falling out of fashion is visualization. Someone recently told me that you could tell a practice was fluffy new age if it had visualization because no authentic magic involved visualization. By authentic magic I am assuming that they mean contained in a Grimoire written between 1300-1600 because I know of hundreds of practices in Asia that date before that time frame which involve intense visualization. Visualization is a potent tool and undetectable by anyone not gifted with clairvoyance.
- Hand Gestures. Many hand gestures can stand in for offerings and tools. I talk about this in my own course and in a short piece I wrote for Mike Cecchetelli’s Book of Abrasax. Whether you have tools of not, the combination of bodily gesture, visualization, and pure will make for a powerful act. Be it a spell or an offering this is a mode of practice that garners results.
- Hidden Symbols. Sometimes you want to work with physical symbols as an anchor and nothing else will do. Inscribe candles just at the bottom so that it is hidden by the candle holder. Hide glyphs and sigils behind objects and pieces of art. Some of this is cursing 101 – nothing like a huge demonic sigil hidden behind a painting to drive someone batty, or black arts powder mixed in with their regular bath powder to give them a spiritual itch they cannot scratch. You can use the same ideas to hide things from prying eyes in your own home.
- Use What Is In Front Of You. Want to play a fun game? The next time you are in a room with other occultists see who can make the best spell or ritual just using what is in the room. Herbs from the Kitchen, toys from the kids room, statues and knick nacks. The world is alive with magic. If you have a strong connection to the spirits you can ask for their guidance: watch how certain items suddenly jump out at you as you instantly understand how to use them.
Even if you do not have to scale down or hide your practice, I think its something that everyone should try. It’s a great way to find out what is absolutely necessary, what is just helpful, what is superfluous, and what is actually holding you back.
A couple years ago when I started to explore Zero Point Magic*, I put everything away. All of it. I would go into the shrine room which had nothing but Black Curtains some candles and Scrying Mirror. It was an awesome experience and I recommend it for people who feel spiritually over-extended or who want to explore the full potential of their art.
*Zero Point Magic uses reality itself as the only symbol set. You ignore all tradition and approach reality as if you were the first person to think of magic – the zero point. I hope to have the Zero-Point Chapbook ready for Spring 2015.