Witchcraft and Underworld Tradition
When it comes to having a mentor in occult philosophy the new student has many people to choose from. In some ways this is a good thing as it allows people to explore all other options, but there is also the fact that there are some really bad mentors in the Occult. Robin Artisson is one of the few people who will write about or work with Traditional Witchcraft. While “Wiccan” witchcraft is a wonderful practice and I still practice it, Artisson’s work has given me a more realistic view of witchcraft that resonates more than the “Wiccan” witchcraft does.
While he has not been studying and practicing all that long (14 years ) his experiences and where he grew up added to his knowledge. Artisson is of Anglo-Pictish heritage. His family also had Irish, Cajun and Sicilian heritage. Growing up in New Orleans he lived in a home that was the last remnants of folklore and supernaturalism in the US. His college education involved getting a BA in European History/Anthropology and a MA in both Criminal justice and Policy Science as well as Marriage and Family therapy. He is currently working on Trouble and Pernicious Mischief. Artisson also is very shamanic (otherworldly) in his healing practices that some call witchcraft.
One of my central philosophies is that every thing has a shadow and and everything has a light side. To me it’s like looking in the dark at night. In some way there will be some light and in others there will be pitch black. Look at light. A light can not be a light with out darkness and darkness is not darkness with out light. They are one and light and shadow are shades of gray. When I apply that idea to the way I view life I grasp the mystery that is wholeness. All I see is shades of gray which is the balance between light and dark.
The first chapter of his online book The Village or The Pendulum of Souls outlines this concept specifically. When he stated :
“Even the good Christ, gentle and loving, dead for the good of humankind, has a dark shadow beyond- Demon Est Deus Inversus– and what a surprise it is for most to realize who he really is…or should I say, who he is, when you see both sides of his mystery, in the wholeness of light and shadow.”
I felt instinctively that some one else knew what I always thought about Jesus and Gods in general was true. It never made sense to me that God in any form could be all Light with out any Dark. How Christians could see Jesus as anything other than a Man (a blessed, and enlightened man) but a man none the less. Gods have shadows and men have shadows so why wouldn’t Jesus? Understanding the balance and boundaries of each are you can live in a state of wholeness. According to Artisson experiencing that mystery and understanding it is a crucial point in the journey of the witch. How a witch achieved that goal plays into one of the many definitions I consider to be accurate explanations of what witchcraft is and what it means to be a witch.
In old English a witch was called an Hagtessa. Hagtessa specifiably means hedge rider or one who travels freely between the world of the seen and the world of the unseen. At the time it was thought that you couldn’t travel between the worlds and ever remain the same. Yet witches were able to live in both worlds simultaneously. Artisson states in his definition of witchcraft that witchcraft is an other world tradition where you go between the two worlds to gain your power as a witch. Witches call upon the powers of both worlds to enact the changes they desire.
One of the mysteries of my tradition of witchcraft is based upon the mysteries of the other worlds. For me traveling to the different worlds is part of my practice. I feel that my power as a witch comes from the land and the spirits as well as from my own inner fire and passions. The first training I took as a witch was in entering a trance state. I have always felt that the other world and this world were not separate. That which occurs on one world will ultimately have an affect on the other world.
It just feels natural for me to travel between the worlds. I never really needed training on how get there, I just needed to learn to control those movements. When I read Artisson’s thoughts on the necessity of other world travels it added clarity to the bonds between the worlds. His clarification on the bonds has given me a desire to seek this understanding. To add to this mystery I feel that there are many many realms to add to learning.
Artisson spends a lot of time in his book The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill talking about the concept of Fate. He explains how everything is a part of fate and how important fate is to reality. Now before I read the articles in the mentioned books I never really believed in Fate. I believe in Cause and Effect not preordained matters. Artisson describes Fate as:
“ …Fate is a unitive system; spirit or life and physical matter or manifestations are not truly alien substances, ultimately separate from each other. They are complementary, necessary to each other. They are both interactive and co-create with each other.”
Understanding the mystery of Fate is as important as understanding the dualistic nature of reality. Witches are weavers of fate and it is because of fate that we have the ability to make those changes to the strands of fate. This quote:
“ Fate is as a whole the great ‘Field’ of reality that makes anything possible, a great an infinite well of Potentials. From it all things occur and ‘on’ it ‘within’ it ‘as’ it and because of it that things can occur”
This is his way of explaining why things work as they do. If fate is a web and weave where everything builds on everything else leaving something to fate means letting it happen with letting what must be must be. To me that also means cause and effect as all that will happen will happen based in that which has come before it.
Under the premise of us all being connected to each other and part of one reality, it made me wonder about individuality. While the statement of us all being one people gives me a sense of relief, I feel that at times we feel to individualistic. It seems that the many years of Christian Dogma where the Bible states that the Earth is ours to do as we will still has an effect on our relationship with the world on a cultural level. Artisson explains that:
“To be an individual means to have a sense of separation from things while simultaneously being at one with all things”
This duality of experience seems to have a lack of respect for the land. I mean the circulatory system of the earth is polluted, trees are cut down everyday. Those two things water and trees are essential to our life and by polluting them we are essentially killing ourselves and all else. No one seems to understand that the actual land on the earth or plants or animals have consciousness in some manner and have spiritual presence in both worlds.
I have always held that the land speaks to us. I have always known that like us the earth has some form of consciousness. Artisson was able to eloquently explain how this is true. He also explains about the afterlife and the soul. This quote about the land really explains how I as a witch can honor the earth and really work with the energies of the land that we live on:
“Land itself has the substance of ‘mind’; all things are aware-though all things are not conscious in the same manner as a human being or an animal with a brain is conscious”
Like many witches Artisson and I both agree in reincarnation. He also believes in the many parts of the soul. Artisson has made me think about what exactly the soul is any why we reincarnate, though a question did come to my mind as I read his theory. That question was if we reincarnate does that mean a new strand of fate is created? In essence the article about rebirth says that rebirth into a new home does not mean you are the same as we are always changing as we switch between different bodies, forms, and states of being. Each new life brings new challenges and new experiences. These experiences will change your soul’s understanding of the world and a new form of your strand of reality will be created.
To many this idea might be sad. The fact that we are never the same again is a bit depressing. The truth is we change a bit every day as every experience will change us. In essence when I die the body and the personality that is Charity Bedell will be gone. My spirit will remain, but I will not be the same. This is not a theory I agree with. I believe that I am not physically immortal but I am spiritually mortal. It was Artisson’s article on the soul that started me thinking about what my views of the soul are.
Religiously what makes up the soul is an essential mystery that one must find on their own. It explains why we have all the parts of the soul and why they have them. The goal of my religious practices is to ascend to the next state of being. Each life I have experiences that will add to my quest for wisdom and learning all that there is to learn.
Artisson has a quote that I agree with, Essentially he states that like many ancients that death is a challenge a mystery and the passage to a new condition of being. It is true that death and what comes after is a mystery. There is a taboo that those who have passed from this world can not tell a living person the experiences of death. It is also forbidden to take the knowledge of what exists and happens after death to the next life. Death is an experience we must all have and as the beliefs about death are non falsifiable all we have is speculation.
This is where Artisson and I start to differ in our opinions in regards to the soul. He believes that there are three components to the soul. I personally believe that there are 5 components. Each component plays a role in what happens after death and during your life. I like Artisson believe that if a person is missing a part of their soul that they will die.
I believe in many realms of the other world. One of those realms is the realm of the dead. The realm of the dead hosts a faint shadow of all your past lives as well as the lives of every one else who has passed on. The susoul as I call it only exists here after we are dead. However because of past lives we are able to gain contact with this realm through trance and dream work. This is the part of your soul that your descendants will be able to contact once you have passed on.
The body only lasts one life time. For this reason the body should be well cared for and maintained. It is our body that allows us to have the physical experiences we need to ascend. It is my view that in order to ascend to the next state of being we need to experience all types of life and lifestyles. In this way we slowly build up wisdom regarding the mysteries of physical being. Once the body dies it becomes part of the land and thus becomes part of sustains our lives.
The mind is also a part of the soul. The mind is your awareness. It is your consciousness and your personality. Your mind is the part of you that will ascend. While it contains all of our personality it also houses the personalities and thought profiles of all your past lives. It is the mind that processes the experiences and from those experiences gain access to the deep mysteries of life. This is what most people would consider the soul. The mind during life lives both in your body and in the other world on your strand of fate working with Old Fate (The goddess that rules over fate, life death and all of creation).
The last aspect of the soul is the spirit. To me the spirit is the force of life. It is that one thing that life can not exist with out. It is not tangible and it is not provable. Yet to me the spirit can not leave the body till death where the spirit is then released to the world and given to another life form. Spirit is what Doctor Frankfurter called the “breath of life” in the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I would agree with that statement.
Artisson will remain one of the most influential mentors I will come across in my studies. He unlike most other mentors I have had always makes me think. I read his works one article at a time and take detailed notes. If I didn’t take the notes and have quotes to refer back to I would not understand Artisson. He doesn’t give you the information on a silver platter. You need to work, ponder and think for yourself. I believe that all good mentors and philosophers should make you think and come to your own conclusions.
The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill By Robin Artisson