You are on page 1of 70

A LIVING RELIGION – MODERN WITCHCRAFT AND SHAMANISM FROM A SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE ____________________________________ A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of California

State University, Fullerton ____________________________________ In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts in Sociology ____________________________________ By Giana Cicchelli Approved by:

Eileen Walsh, Committee Chair Department of Sociology


Dana Collins, Member Department of Sociology


Sharon Kim, Member Department of Sociology



The goal of my research is to examine the experiences of modern witches and shaman whom practice magick and healing in Southern California, and to examine further how these experiences have developed a common culture of meaning. I studied an eclectic mix of local practitioners of the magickal lifestyle in order to get an intimate picture of these experiences and their diversity. In my review of the literature surrounding Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism, and Shamanism I have found that the original focus of this type of research has been on empowerment: feminism, environmentalism, and homosexual acceptance. I am concerned with the absence of literature on magick, and as such my focus is on magick, as a real experience, and its practitioners. Using both 3 months of field observations and 20 in-depth individual interviews I have found that all of the men and women believe in, and interact with, both masculine and feminine deities. Practitioners of the magickal lifestyle use magickal techniques, such as deity invocation or shifting ethereal energy, to embody a wholly different reality, thus subverting their standpoint of knowledge.
2 1

1 2

I purposely spell the word magick with a ‘k’ to differentiate from sleight of hand.

I have created the term ‘magickal lifestyle’ as an umbrella term to encapsulate all those spiritual practices that are nature based, recognize a feminine divinity, and practice magick or ritualized prayer. The need to create an umbrella term arose as the varying practitioners had a myriad of labels they had adopted that didn’t necessarily fit under ‘witch’ or ‘shaman’.



ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................... ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............................................................................................. Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................ 2. LITERATURE REVIEW ..................................................................................... Terms and Labels .................................................................................................. Mumbo jumbo and other inherent racisms ........................................................... Feminism and the emergence of the Goddess ...................................................... Homosexual acceptance ........................................................................................ Queering................................................................................................................ Eco-friendly beliefs............................................................................................... Race ...................................................................................................................... Magick .................................................................................................................. Purpose.................................................................................................................. 3. 4. METHODS ........................................................................................................... FINDINGS ............................................................................................................ Magick comes in many forms: definitions and labels .......................................... The sacred ............................................................................................................. Community creation and knowledge building ...................................................... Labels .................................................................................................................... Standpoint knowledge .......................................................................................... Invoking difference and being different ............................................................... Subverting standpoint ........................................................................................... Meaning-making and common experience ........................................................... Co-creation of beliefs............................................................................................ 5.

ii iv

1 6 7 9 11 13 13 14 14 15 16 18 23 26 30 32 35 38 39 48 49 51

CONCLUSION..................................................................................................... 55 59 60

APPENDIX 1 ................................................................................................................. REFERENCES .............................................................................................................


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS “They burned us before to try and keep us down. Little did they know they were purifying us by the fire so that when we returned we’d be stronger than ever; put that in your thesis!” – Chelle

I would like to thank my committee: Eileen Walsh, Dana Collins, and Sharon Kim whose invaluable input and direction have helped me immensely. To the sociology professors at both UC Santa Cruz and CSU Fullerton, I would not be here without your encouragement and support. Thank you. Candace West, Jennifer Reardon, Francesca Guerra, Wendy Martyna, Gigi Blanche and Shannon Williams – you are amazing. I would like to thank my mom, dad, sister, step-mom, and everyone else in my family who has listened to my theoretical rants ad nauseum, and still managed to hold a smile. Your love and patience have been a saving grace. I would especially like to thank all of the practitioners of the magickal lifestyle who allowed me the privilege of interviews, for their kindness, generosity, and amazing stories. Thank you to my spiritual teachers. I am honored to call myself your student. Thank you to my Coven, for being there through the dark, for dancing with me by the fire under the full moon, and filling my heart with laughter. Hekate, Diana, Aradia, Ma’at, Kali, Morrigan, Pan, Cernunnos, Bacchus, Apuchine, Otorongo, Amaru, Seq'e Kente, Sachamama, Inti TayTay, Mama Quilla, and Pachamama—in your honor.


Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology. – Arthur C. Clarke

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table, Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able, And where does magic come from? I think magic's in the learning, 'Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning. -Dar Williams



My research question is: how do modern witches and shaman talk about magick? I am interested in hearing about experiences with magick and how those experiences have affected the practitioner of the magickal lifestyle. The concept of magick as a lived experience is often glossed over in the literature, possibly because it is so foreign to nonpractitioner of the magickal lifestyle, and also because it is impossible to measure. Magick can be defined as affecting a change that manifests in the material realm based on the direction of ethereal energies put forth (Grimassi 2003). Modern witches and shamen as a culture use magick in their daily lives, magick is an integral aspect of the magickal lifestyle. Furthermore, magick is real, and it is experienced by practitioners of the magickal lifestyle, with tangible results. My interest is to focus on the magick and see how its practitioners use magick, and what common themes emerge from these experiences. I came to investigate this topic through my own experiences as a practitioner of the magickal lifestyle. Interactions I have had at work and in school led me to believe that my research was important to the culture of the magickal lifestyle. By researching magick as a lived experience I am emphasizing validity, and putting the focus of my work on a culture that is often thought of as deviant. Practitioners of the magickal lifestyle are a


2 growing community of people who turn their backs on the dominant religions in favor of a practice that is both empowering and egalitarian. I first began collecting my data by asking local witches what their experiences had been, and how they became witches. I found myself drawn to asking about their experiences with magick; my curiosity lay in the magick. I listened to the stories of a few witches, and then decided I wanted to know where their stories fit into the academic conversation already in progress. The literature surrounding Wicca, Witchcraft, Shamanism, and Paganism is actually quite substantial with authors looking to the growing culture as a venue for feminist empowerment, environmental protection, and homosexual acceptance (Adler 1986; Bloch 1997; Cabot and Cowan 1989; Caulder 2002; Eller 1995; Foltz 2000; Griffin 1995; Jarvis 2008; Letcher 2001; McIntosh 2004; Neitz 2000; Sempruch 2004; Starhawk 1989; and Wallis 2000). If the research was done in Africa, however, then the focus is generally on the HIV/AIDS pandemic and witchcraft’s inability to cure (Jolles and Jolles 2000; Kaboru, Falkenberg, Ndulo, Muchimba, Solo and Faxelid 2006; Nnko, Chiduo, Wilson, Msuya, Mwaluko and Mruya 2000; Okwu 1979; Opaneye 1996; Peltzer, Mngqundaniso and Petros 2006; Romero-Daza 2002; and Taylor 2001). While reading the previous literature I found myself again yearning for more discussion of magick. Participation in the magickal lifestyle is based on experiencing magick, and I wanted to explore that lived experience. I realized magick is the focus of my research interest. The theoretical lens I used to understand my data draws from the sociological concept of standpoint theory and symbolic interaction theory’s interest in meaning-making activities.

3 Standpoint theory plays an interesting role in the magickal lifestyle, as the cosmology draws from the ability to manipulate ethereal energies in order to effect change. These changes are not constrained to the outside world, and can in fact be used to altar one’s perspective. Practitioners of the magickal lifestyle employ techniques to manipulate ethereal energies in order to shift their standpoint of knowledge. Practitioners of the magickal lifestyle are often well versed in feminist ideology and describe playing with the differing energies as a means of subverting their gendered knowledge. I have found that they tend to subvert the dominant paradigms through trickery and magick. The previous example used by Neitz (2004) shows women putting on horns (a display usually reserved for the male horned God), playing with expectations and gendered norms. My example draws from women and men interacting with these God/desses and archetypes through invocation. Gender play and invocation are only slightly different through intention; it is my intent to focus on the experience and belief rather than the practice. My focus shows that invoking energy creates a shift in the perspective of the practitioner, changing their outlook, literally. This is a technique of subverting the dominant paradigm because it is shifting energy without announcing the change. It is a form of trickery because the non-practitioner of the magickal lifestyle interacts with a practitioner whose energy is shifted they are affected by the change without necessarily being aware.

I refer to trickery as an educational tool. In many mythologies the trickster is fundamental to the growth of a people, teaching the hard lessons by tricking one into them. One story I heard was that trickster stole fire from the Gods and gave it to humankind; oftentimes the trickster is the culture hero.


4 Furthermore, the language and experiences within the magickal lifestyle serves to create a common culture of meaning that both unites the practitioners of the magickal lifestyle and gives validity to their experiences. The language that is used when talking about magick is often the marker of a true experience, and many times this language is psychic. For example, language that focuses on feeling and description of phenomenon is a focus of magick. Furthermore, the experience of one practitioner feeling what the other is saying while they are describing it is an indicator of realness. Often one practitioner will describe a magick experience and the other practitioner will experience physical symptoms (i.e., ears ringing, goose-bumps, or dizzy feeling) that indicate the story is true. The practitioners of the magickal lifestyle use terms about energy and psychic perception to communicate with each other and to demark the boundary separating themselves from those who do not experience such phenomena and to solidify the group cohesiveness by distinguishing themselves from others who do not discuss the magickal mysteries. I employed qualitative methods of research, first conducting preliminary interviews, making sense of the data, continuing to make observations prior to consulting the existing literature. I took three months of field notes and conducted twenty in-depth interviews with practitioners of the magickal lifestyle in the Southern California region. The people I interviewed were women and men between the ages of 24 and 74 who practice a variety of ‘Magickal Lifestyle’ cosmologies—from Peruvian Shamanism, Catholic-Strega, Eclectic Goddess worshippers, hereditary to Druidic. The ethnic backgrounds of my interviewees were Italian, Irish, African-American, and Jewish.

5 In the future I would like to include heterosexual males in my study as well as more eclectic representations of pantheons (i.e., Voodoo, North American Shamanism, European Shamanism, Korean Shamanism, etc.). Also, I did not include practitioners of the Golden Dawn, Sufi hermetic tradition, Chaos magicians, or members of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). I did not have access to these practitioners, I do not practice their tradition, and I do not know enough about their beliefs to include them in my study. Future research should strive to include their cosmology and practices. I would suggest further research be done into the differences of perception regarding the magickal lifestyle as it is practiced in Africa to contrast and compare with those European and American practices.


“I just thought that someone like you seems intellectual; not the type to believe is silly things like magick,”1 a fellow CSU, Fullerton student once said to me, seemingly ignorant of the possibility that I might be offended. Shortly thereafter, I came across a newspaper article from the New York Times: “On Parched Farms Intuition is used to Find Water” in which the author speaks of Phil Stein, labeled a ‘water witch’ for his magickal ability. Inherent in the article are negative stereotypes of a ‘witch’ and many quotes are used to ensure that Phil is not weird or possessed, only a humble man who uses his God given ability to find water and help others through the drought (McKinley 2008). Dialogue that demeans the practice of witchcraft is still prevalent. I am drawn to this subject because of personal interest, but my interactions with those outside of the witchcraft/Wicca community sparked me to want to research witchcraft, a practice and community, which are all too often considered to be un-intellectual, and deviant. I conducted a pilot study of interviews to begin my qualitative research, after which I delved into the literature surrounding the topic. My methods have been an exploration of the stories that practitioners of the magickal lifestyle tell.

I have spelled magickal with an extra k as a means of differentiating it from a person who practices sleight of hand.



7 The previous literature surrounding magick and witchcraft exhibits a theme of empowerment woven through the literature on modern Wicca, witchcraft, paganism, and shamanism. I have come across a vast canon of academic voices chiming in to create a body of work with topics of feminism, environmentalism, homosexuality and consumerism that gives me both comfort and concern for future research. My curiosity was piqued at the realization that none of the literature I found explores the experience of magick among practitioners. This study focuses on the meanings and understandings that people in the magickal lifestyle use to explain their experiences with magick. Terms and Labels In order to start this review of literature, I need to mark some boundaries of definition. My research focused on anything that could be seen as participating in the magickal lifestyle.2 The labels that have been used vary among academics, and the perspective of the researcher. However, my definition will include the names neopaganism and paganism (Adler 1986; Hutton 2000; Letcher 2001; Jorgensen & Russell 1999; McIntosh 2004; Neitz 2000; and Wallis 2000), Goddess worshippers and feminist spirituality (Eller 1995; Foltz 2000; Griffin 1995; Sempruch 2004; and Starhawk 1989), “cult” (Perrin 2001), witchcraft (Cabot and Cowan 1989, Ezzy 2006, Neitz 2004), shamanism (Wallis 2000), and Wicca (Adler 1986; Cameron 2005; Jarvis 2008; and

I refer to magickal lifestyle as an umbrella term; I believe it encompasses the many labels that I have found, and keeps its openness for other spiritual/religious additions.


8 Neitz 2004). All these names reference a spiritual practice that is nature based, recognizes a feminine divinity,3 and practices magick or ritualized prayer. Magick can be defined as effecting a change that manifests in the material realm based on the direction of ethereal energies put forth (Grimassi 2003). A more clear explanation of this would be to think of the television sitcom aired in the 1970s Bewitched, wherein the main character Samantha twitches her nose and something suddenly appears. Magick is the same concept. Twitching of the nose is synonymous of directing ethereal energies. Furthermore based on my interviews, and personal experience, instantaneous results rarely occur, the time frame of manifestation is usually a month, but can differ depending on the intent of the practitioner. My definition of the magickal lifestyle incorporates various forms of modern magickal practitioners; however, it was suggested by an outside reviewer that practitioners of Chaos magick, and the Sufi hermetic tradition do not recognize a female divinity. These particular groups would be left out of my definition. Further, there are practitioners of the Golden Dawn and Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) that may, or may not resemble the findings of my study. I do not know enough about these different cosmologies to feel comfortable categorizing them, and would suggest future research take these into account. This research considers only those practices which recognize a female deity and are based in nature; others are considered in the dominant religions. Possibly greater classifications need to be made to differentiate a religion that practices

Dianic witchcraft is a feminist response to male dominated religious practices, and refuses to acknowledge the God in their spiritual work (Foltz 2000; and Sempruch 2004).


9 magick from a religion that utilizes prayer. Such distinctions are beyond the scope of this research. I have observed in my daily interactions with practitioners of the magickal lifestyle that many mix and match various pantheons, or the Gods and Goddesses in a particular religious structure; one may meet a Christian/Druid/Buddhist or a Cabala practicing shaman. Later I will argue that these permutations are part of participating in a living religion, a practice that is characteristically inclusive and evolves with the practitioner. The practitioners that I have interacted with are free to include whichever God/dess they feel is calling to them, and also integrate the mythology surrounding that deity into their belief system. Personal experience, and stories from my interviews, also shows that these deities are not necessarily bound by their mythological story. For example, I had an interaction with Medusa wherein I was told that her myth was a lie, and given another version of the story. My beliefs are free to transform themselves and interact with me. Mumbo Jumbo and other Inherent Racisms I also focused on those articles that pertain to the European versions of the magickal lifestyle (Wicca, neo-pagans, feminist spirituality, Goddess worshippers) or Americanized versions of magick (Goddess worshippers, neo-pagans, and neoshamanism), as I have found that when the magick being performed is on the African continent the literature focuses on the ability/inability for traditional healers, or witch doctors, to help with the AIDS pandemic (Jolles and Jolles 2000; Kaboru, Falkenberg, Ndulo, Muchimba, Solo and Faxelid 2006; Nnko, Chiduo, Wilson, Msuya, Mwaluko and

10 Mruya 2000; Okwu 1979; Opaneye 1996; Peltzer, Mngqundaniso and Petros 2006; Romero-Daza 2002; and Taylor 2001). Some of this literature looked at the position in society that is held by the traditional healer, or witch-doctor, and their ability to teach people about safe sex or disease prevention (Opaneye 1996; Peltzer et al. 2006; and Romero 2002). African religion and culture is intertwined with traditional healing, which is performed by magick practitioners (Okwu 1979). Some articles looked to the collaboration between traditional healers and western medicine (Kaboru et al. 2006) while others focused on traditional healers being a waste of money (Nnko et al. 2000). I did not focus on this phenomenon because magick’s ability or inability to cure a virus, and the social implications therein, seem a hefty task to take on. Investigation of the differences that emerge within academic writings about the magickal lifestyle cross culturally would be an interesting avenue for further research. The literature that is the focus of this review is the modern neo-emergence of the magickal lifestyle which does not stress the health and medicine aspect as much as the self-empowerment, environmental empowerment and feminist reclaiming avenues (Adler 1986; Bloch 1997; Cabot and Cowan 1989; Caulder 2002; Eller 1995; Foltz 2000; Griffin 1995; Jarvis 2008; Letcher 2001; McIntosh 2004; Neitz 2000; Sempruch 2004; Starhawk 1989; and Wallis 2000). I propose that there is a difference of opinion between the whitemanized4 version of the magickal lifestyle (i.e. Wicca), and the practice of

Whitemanized term found in Lakota Woman by Mary Crow-Dog, published by HarperPerennial, 1991. Whitemanized is a term that refers to the act of ‘becoming white’ or assimilating one’s beliefs and lifestyle to the white culture, often by force.

11 ‘traditional ways’ (voodoo, shamanism, etc.) in areas that are untouched by western medicine and culture. I strongly propose further research, both ethnographic and discourse analysis, into the cross-cultural differences of practice, perception, and evaluation of practitioners of the magickal lifestyle. Feminism and the Emergence of a Goddess The magickal lifestyle has been pursued as a means of searching out a feminine aspect of God, or a Goddess (Adler 1986; Bloch 1997; Eller 1995; Foltz 2000; Griffin 1995; Jarvis 2008; Sempruch 2004; and Starhawk 1989). Women seek out a spiritual connection with a deity with whom they can connect, and who represents them. Of the research done on the feminist spirituality movement, a theme emerges: that one goes in search for the mother and finds spiritual empowerment along with magick (Adler 1986; Bloch 1997; Eller 1995; Foltz 2000; Griffin 1995; Jarvis 2008; Sempruch 2004; and Starhawk 1989). The magickal lifestyle is an avenue for feminism in spirituality, wherein there is a deity that women can identify with: Goddess. Wicca empowers women, and is a venue for young girls to be empowered in their bodies and their sexuality (Jarvis 2008). The Goddess movement spiritually empowers women and helps to articulate the genderbased inequalities that they face (Bloch 1997). The previous literature shows how Goddess spirituality changes, and Wicca, creates a changed culture and creates a new platform of experience (Adler 1986; Bloch 1997; Eller 1995; Foltz 2000; Griffin1995; and Sempruch 2004). The focus on the culture of a feminist spirituality shows how changes occurred through the transition and posited

12 that these changes are ultimately good for women. Women found a religion that accepted them and empowered them. Women were reclaiming the Goddess. From this venue of feminist reclamation came an offshoot of lesbian separatist witchcraft, otherwise known as Dianic5 witchcraft. The exclusion inherent in the Dianic tradition has both excited adherents, as well as provoked cause for concern, as it harkens back to a mirror image of the current male-centered religions (Foltz 2000; and Sempruch 2004). Not all of the reclaiming movements were female-exclusive, and Bloch (1997) brings up the point that further research should be done into the perceptions that men of the magickal lifestyle have; it may cater to a desire for balance, as well as a “nurturing and expressive form of divinity” (181). Types of feminisms that occur from the practices that are participated in are female empowerment, observance of female deities, queering of traditional roles (woman with horns) and freedom of the body, or the acceptance and sacredness of the female body and sexuality. Feminist meaning-making occurs through the practice of creating symbols and myths with a feminist lens. These two practices created solidarity within the group, so even though there is not a uniform doctrine there is a sense of group (Neitz 2000; and Neitz 2004).

Dianic is taken from the name of the Goddess Diana, who is the virgin huntress of the wild lands, thought by many to be a lesbian (Adler 1989; Foltz 2000; and Sempruch 2004). Though this is the popular definition of the Dianic tradition, there is also a lesser popularized version founded by Morgan McFarland which doesn’t exclude men, but strongly reveres the feminine (Adler 1986).


13 Homosexual Acceptance American neo-pagans are widely accepting of homosexuality and homosexuals (Adler 1986; Eller 1995; Neitz 2000; Starhawk 1989; and Wallis 2000). The majority of American neo-pagans, or practitioners of the magickal lifestyle, are White women urbanites in the working to middle classes (Jorgensen & Russell 1999). Jorgensen & Russell (1999) recognized that there has been little empirical research done on the increasing new religious movement in America. They used one-page, two-sided, selfadministered questionnaires at neo-pagan festivals across the country to collect data on the social characteristics, viewpoints, and activities of these people. Unfortunately only 643 were returned (of the 2000 administered), a fact that was unanticipated by the researchers. Further quantitative research should be utilized to get a more representative sample of witches and neo-pagans. The data were also limited because respondents all self-identified as practitioners and were attending a public pagan activity. The sample did not include those pagans who are not out, and do not attend festivals, or identify themselves online. It is likely that those who are less forthcoming about their identification with the movement might respond differently to questionnaires. The fact that this data was gathered at festivals may be a greater indicator of the data. Queering Homosexual acceptance is not the only form of progressive action in the magickal lifestyle. In her article “Queering the Dragonfest: Changing Sexualities in a post patriarchal religion” Neitz (2000) writes about women wearing horns during a pagan ritual. This is a radical statement by the female practitioners as women were taking on the

14 paraphernalia of men, or the horned God, and claiming male identified roles. Neitz (2004) later shows how neo-pagan and Wicca culture focuses on practice instead of belief, and in this way of expressing religion there is room for gender play. Neitz (2000 & 2004) looks at the Wicca movement as a unique change in position where the practitioner is more concerned with practice rather than belief where dominant religion focuses on belief. Her argument is that sociology of religion primarily focuses on belief, and needs to realign itself to actual practice. I propose to take this one step further by looking not at the actions but at the beliefs behind the actions, and the results. Eco-friendly Beliefs The magickal lifestyle, as I stated in the beginning, is firmly rooted in its connection with nature (Aldler 1986; Cabot 1989; Caulder 2002; Grimassi 2003; Hutton 2000; Letcher 2001; McIntosh 2004; Starhawk 1989; and Wallis 2000). Furthermore, the belief in faeries, as well as giving a name, face, and character to nature, may be a form of identity and self-protection for eco-pagans (Letcher 2001). The cosmology of the magickal lifestyle includes nature as an ally and consort that should be respected, and protected; this belief may serve to more fully empower future environmental activism. Race The majority of American neo-pagans are White women, of working to middle class, urbanites (Jorgensen & Russell); however, Griffin (1995) points out that while in the majority it is not true in her observations. Of her interviewees she found core members, and the Goddesses that were revered, are multi-cultural. Magick

15 Sam Cameron (2005) and Douglas Ezzy (2006) both had interesting views on magick within an economic perspective. Cameron focused on the law of 3 or the ‘rebound’ effect in the terms of economics and religion as a consumer good, ultimately pointing to invest/return composite wherein the Wiccan tenet basically is not all that dissimilar from traditional Christian belief of payback for sin. Ezzy (2006), however, focuses on the trend towards ‘White magick witches’ as being the product of a consumer capitalistic society. Traditional witchcraft is not bound by these new definitions of white/black magick, so by claiming to be a White witch—a position that is ready for consumption in the dominant culture—is risking transforming their craft into a new fad rather than a transformative religious tradition (Ezzy 2006). Another author, Ellis (1995), looks at the adherence to positive magick, or hexing as a source of tension. These are experiences of the practitioners around magick, but not really within magick. It wasn’t a surprise that the existing literature did not describe experiences of magick by practitioners of the magickal lifestyle. How can magick be measured? It cannot, which is probably why it hasn’t been investigated. Little is written to describe the practitioners’ experiences with magick, which are the focus of this research. Margot Adler’s (1986) and Sabina Magliocco’s (2004) anthropological ethnographic studies of the neo-magickal lifestyle describe the uses of magick, but in sociological literature descriptions of the “hocus pocus” experiences are missing; as the name ‘magickal lifestyle’ implies there is an open acceptance, and experience of magick. Magick is an experience that is intimate, scary, and awesome. This is what I want to hear about, what I want to research: experiences with magick. Eller (1995) describes

16 the tension between women who are practicing Wicca, and their division because of magick; some women wanted to do magick, some women were scared. Magick was an avenue of tension between them. Eller (1995) is speaking of magick as a concept, but the experience is of a division. Fear and acceptance of magick is the main premise of her article. In an autoethnographic piece Caulder (2002) describes her own journey to Africa, her reclamation of Voodoo, and her experiences. Caulder’s account and its descriptions of magick were fascinating and lead me to explore the topic for this research. I would say Caulder (2002) and Adler (1986) demonstrated magick as a lived experience, and told the story. My curiosity led me to focus on magick, the stories of its practitioners, the techniques they used, and how these influence their interaction with society. Many people dismiss magick as a form of trickery, it often is not taken seriously; some may even confuse it for sleight-of-hand. This outlook critically diminishes the position of the magickal practitioner. I propose that further research be done into the experiences of magick by its practitioners, as a means of describing its epistemology, exploring the underlying assumptions, as well as showing how people go about describing the ineffable. Purpose Hopefully, my work will inspire others to find commonality among various religions by identifying similar themes of meaning, community, and understanding. The magickal lifestyle is experiencing a relatively recent renaissance among the public. The last legislation to ban or restrict witchcraft was repealed in 1951 (Neitz 2004). Witchcraft and magick are paths that are feared by many, and not understood by most. I hope to

17 bring understanding and tolerance by illuminating this mystical realm through findings based on interviews with its practitioners and observations of open public rituals and pagan festivals.

No social study that does not come back to the problems of biography and of history and of their intersections within a society has completed its intellectual journey. Mills, 1959

I began my qualitative research by doing preliminary interviews with a high priestess of Wicca, and a Druidic high priest gay male couple. My purpose was to explore the stories of people who live the magickal lifestyle, to discover themes that emerge. I then delved into the literature surrounding my study to clarify the issues which emerged from our conversations. In my findings I discovered that the previous literature regarding feminism and the magickal lifestyle is still intact in the magickal community. The magickal lifestyle is a mechanism for feminist empowerment. I started taking notes in the field while attending pagan pride, and quickly realized that I had no need to go out and find pagans or witches; I have a whole community of pagans that I work with, who, in turn, know other pagans. Thus I used the snowball sampling technique to gather eligible participants. I took field notes at open rituals, workshops, and gatherings. I am intertwined in the world of Wicca, witchcraft, shamanism, and paganism. My eclectic history of teachers and cohorts in my spiritual journey have expressed that they are more


19 than happy to contribute to my academic pursuits. This will, however, limit my research to the experiences of Southern Californians.

I am currently a high priestess of a Wicca tradition, and a Pompamasayoq in the Peruvian Q’ero tradition. I have trained and apprenticed since 2003 and come from an eclectic background of religious pantheons: Palo, Stregheria, Celtic, Druidic, Shamanic, and Native American. I am also currently serving as a shaman’s apprentice (of the Peruvian cosmology). I am telling you where I come from so that it is not a secret, but assure you that I have also strived to make the familiar strange as a means of looking at my data as an outsider (as much as is possible). I am an observing participant as I have an obvious pre-established role in the pagan community. My status, however, has also granted me access to people who might otherwise not divulge their secrets, their experiences, and their magick. As much as I may try to describe my standpoint, there are probably some taken-for-granted aspects of the magickal lifestyle that I may overlook in describing; that oversight should be outweighed by my insider status which grants you the privilege of peeking into this common culture of meaning. To begin gathering data I had to grapple with a number of questions: What is witchcraft? This question is not easily answered given the myriad of idiosyncrasies between the different pantheon practitioners. How does one experience magick? I cannot

Though I did spend three years studying various Wiccan pantheons with various practitioners in Northern California, and specifically Santa Cruz, I did not conduct my research there.


20 hand out a survey with a Likert scale for each experience, as I would not even be able to fathom the enormity of different kinds of magick, let alone the type of reaction to them. I have no guiding hypothesis, but rather hoped that my curiosity about the experiences of other practitioners of the magickal lifestyle may illuminate a concept or area to be further investigated. I am using an exploratory method and have employed a systematically subjective inquiry into the stories of my interviewees, and my field notes as well as practiced the art of reflexivity. I will include autoethnographic snippets that either help/hinder my findings. My method will ensure validity, and reliability in the culture I am studying. I will be employing a humanistic approach to the study of the magickal lifestyle, as I am not looking for an objective truth, but a theme of experience, and meanings. More than a mere interest in observing witches, I wanted to talk to people, to hear their stories, and to give them the benefit of no preset perspective. In reality, I do have a perspective: I believe that witchcraft and magick are real, not a subculture pursued by deviants. Moreover, I do consider myself a witch, in that I practice a spirituality and religion that would be defined as such. My research looks into the experiences of others who may or may not self-defined as witches, but who would also be defined as a witch.2. Over the course of 12 months I conducted twenty (20) in-depth interviews using the snowball technique, which I have supplemented by three (3) months of field notes. I believe field observations are a valuable asset to my data as I am able to observe the interactions and exchange of information within a natural context. I attended both

The term ‘witch’ is not solely used to define women.

21 summer and winter solstice fairs, pagan festivals, as well as shamanic workshops, and full moon celebrations. In some circles I am a main contributor, but in other circles I am only a participant. My interviewees ranged between 24 and 74 years of age, and practiced a variety of different magickal lifestyles (from Peruvian Shaman to Goddess worshippers to Druidic). I participate in a magickal lifestyle activity at least once a week, and have an abundant amount of data to draw from. I fully understand that my background may prove to be a hindrance to my impartiality; however, it is my belief that no researcher is ever truly unbiased. I am putting on the table my standpoint so that you, the reader, may decide for yourself where my observations are lacking and or prejudiced. Furthermore, one should take into consideration that it is probable that I have attracted others who are similar to me; with time, and more interviews, I am sure that I can expand my pool to include others who are more dissimilar to me. My purpose is to give a glimpse into that world, and show some underlying and overarching themes. In the preliminary interviews that I have done I have found that it would be impossible to hand out a survey to people who consider themselves witches: many do not associate with the word ‘witch’ because of its negative connotation. This varies through different age brackets, but notably restricts my research to qualitative interviews. The topic of magick is hardly understood, and such an intimate experience for the practitioner, that to try and understand its intricacies with a survey is ludicrous. My questions focused on hearing their favorite experiences with magick and healing. Focusing on their experiences with magick enabled me to really delve into the

22 practitioners’ interaction with magick, and how they view that interaction. The reason that I asked about a favorite magickal experience and then a favorite healing experience was not to differentiate types of magick; in my understanding magick is being employed in both instances, and many times for the same reasons. By reframing the question in two different ways I used this strategy to get a more profound understanding of the practitioner’s experiences with magick. Drawing on the work done by Neitz (2000) I hope to explore how practitioners’ experience with magick also affects their standpoint of knowledge. Last, in my reflexive ruminations over the data I have collected, I realized that each interviewee has referred to the occult mysteries, and magick. In hindsight I should have delved further into the perceived definitions of the mysteries, and magick, or the understanding of the concepts. Instead, I was so comfortable with the idea, and had created my own parameter of experience that it was an unspoken agreement of reality. This is a hindrance; however, I cannot divorce myself from the belief that magick cannot be measured. As a result, I take these practitioners’ experiences with magick and extrapolate how magick affects their reality. I have ‘outed’ myself throughout the body of this paper so that you may have an understanding of my perspective, where I come from, and where my biases lie; I have done this on purpose and with full knowledge of the possible backlash. In the spirit of Lemert’s personal courage (2002) I hope to inspire others to question their beliefs of personal identity, and to further open their minds to other possibilities of reality.


Attending Pagan Pride is like a small snapshot of the greater magikcal lifestyle community. I began my field notes at the Los Angeles/Orange County pagan pride event. This is the first time I am attending as an observer and I am overwhelmed with curiosity as I hear, “You have to build the energy from side to side, like this,” he says, flailing the iron scimitar sword in an x pattern in front of his body, “and then you direct it forward, like this.” He plunges the blade outward as if making a deadly blow into an invisible assailant. The demonstration is lively. I linger a bit longer, eavesdropping tidbits of sword magick, before my meandering gaze stumbles upon the beautiful belly dancers, and I decide to move on. I notice I am moving slowly towards the entertainment stage in the middle of the quad, magnetically pulled by the magnificence of a gyrating male, contorting his belly with the grace of ocean waves. His dark brown hair is pulled back, the length of its curly majesty meeting a blood red Celtic wrap around skirt; bare chest rippling the motions of his hips. I think to myself with a chuckle that magick can be performed by many tools, whether it be sword or steed, as I hear a near-by woman tell her friend, “The tranny belly dancer is better than them all!” The day is overcast, and the drive to Pagan Pride was a bit of magick itself, feeling the wheels roll through the Whittier Narrows parking lot, transporting me into an alternate (and alternative) reality. I carpooled with my friend, and as she pulls in, I notice 23

24 that we have made the change: from the mundane to the world of magick. My insides get giddy with butterflies as I spot an assortment of bumper stickers: coexist, my other car is a broom, I’m in the witchcraft business what about you, and a license plate that reads lawof3 (the idea that any magick you cast out will reverberate throughout your life times 3, a concept you may be familiar with if you’ve ever watched Charmed). I am in safe space, and mentally I note that the feeling is similar to when I enter gay space; it feels a little like a mixture of going on a first date and a sigh of relief. As we start walking towards the entrance I see men in kilts, and a woman in a black flowing cape, “Ahhhh,” I exhale, “I am home.” The way in is an opening between two chain link fences, and crossing the threshold reminds me a little of the never-ending story when Atreyu has to pass through the portal doors to find the southern oracle. My entry is not nearly as dramatic, as the woman at the welcome booth smiles and hands me a schedule of speakers, rituals, and entertainment; I glance through the pamphlet noting that there are not many names that I recognize. Pagan Pride is kind of like a smaller version of the Renaissance faire, but with more witches and fewer wenches. The booths are all placed in a large circle marking the perimeter of the festival, with their offerings of witchy wares, and costumes. One can choose from flowing black, purple, crimson, or spider-web capes, as well as an assortment of wands. Of course the hand-decorated top hats are also enticing. I have a personal ritual of my own; I make a preliminary round to check out all of the booths before I start participating. My small notebook and pen in hand, making jottings in the

25 field, I begin to feel like a voyeur and an outsider. I hope that no one notices and presumes me a form of antagonistic surveillance. After I pass the first ten booths, with offerings of tarot readings, jewelry, incense, oils, herbs, ritual accoutrement, and pagan art, I come upon a tent set up for guest speakers. Housing a presenter and a dozen seemingly captivated attendees, I hear, “After you go out on the astral plane, be sure to return the way you came!” the emphasis on the last section makes me wonder if one can get lost in the vast ethereal, or if it is possible to return to the right place but in a different dimension, or time; I wish I had come earlier to attend his lecture. As I continue to survey the area I note the proliferation of tattooed bodies, displaying symbols of their preferred pantheon, or animal spirit ally. Just past the food vendors I spot a high priestess preparing her space for the open ritual that will be performed in recognition of the harvest. I decide it is time to put my pen away and submerge. In my observations I have learned an immense amount about myself and about my community. I have come to understand the Magickal Lifestyle as an interaction with a living cosmology, an evolving cosmology, and a cosmology that changes with each person uniquely. This practice of interacting intimately with one’s spiritual beliefs (or religious doctrine), to the point of co-creating them continuously, has illuminated an understanding that I didn’t comprehend before this research; the Magickal Lifestyle is as eclectic as each practitioner and this fluidity lends to the ability to restructure the internalized sense of self, to alter one’s perspective of reality, or knowledge standpoint. This is revolutionary. This is alive. This is the magickal lifestyle.

26 Another, more obvious realization is that everyone I interviewed has experienced magick. I expected this. My goal was to talk to practitioners about their experiences with magick, and no one said that they had not experienced any. Every participant, however, referenced that everyone, even non-practitioners of the magickal lifestyle, has experienced magick and that they just do not know it, and do not label it magick. A constant understanding among the practitioners of the magickal lifestyle was that magick is about paying attention; magick is happening all the time. With this definition of magick, or as one interviewee defined it, “the bending of energy” magick is no longer some ‘out there’ thing where a woman scrunches her nose and WAMM magick happened. No, magick as a tangible aspect of everyday life is a new definition for the non-practitioner of the magickal lifestyle, but a constant acknowledgement among the practitioner. There are, however, many different ways to implement magick: healing, spell casting, shifting perspective, and altering environment. Magick Comes in Many Forms: Definitions and Labels I realize the content of my paper may be alien to many readers. The concepts and terms of the magickal lifestyle take years to learn and implement correctly by practitioners. I expect that the reader will have much less exposure than even a novice practitioner. In order to understand the argument I am going to make it is imperative that the reader has a foundation of definitions. I have focused my intent on making these concepts easy for the reader to understand. This section is meant to give the reader clarity as I lay out my argument regarding magick.

27 The moment I ask, “Have you experienced magick?” was always greeted with a resounding Yes, or absolutely, and many times accompanied by a chuckle, as if this is the easiest of my interview questions, and it is funny that I even ask. Hilarity would ensue as we shared experiences we had both had. One woman shared the irony of her experiences with people who do not practice the magickal lifestyle, saying, They don’t realize they’re casting spells, they don’t realize they’re doing magick, and they’re doing it, and heaven forbid you tell someone, “Wow! That’s a wicked spell, you really shouldn’t do stuff like that, you know, that’s bad karma” you know, they go, “I’m totally not doing a spell, I’m praying!”. Uh huh! Whatever. You can call it whatever you want but, a duck is a duck, I don’t care if you call it a quacker. What she is saying is that, in her experience, just because a person does not call it magick, or a spell, does not mean that is not what they are doing. Words are symbols to represent actions, and people have disassociated themselves so far from the idea of witchery, and spells, that they do not know what they actually mean, and often participate in dark magick unwittingly. A person praying to God to take revenge on another person is a form of dark magick. Dark magick is understood as over-taking someone else’s willpower. So casting bad thoughts about a person is also a form of dark magick. This suddenly makes the world of magick much more inclusive of everyday experiences, and yet most people do not know there is any power or projection in what they are doing and/or thinking. Practitioners of the magickal lifestyle having interactions with non-practitioners whom participate in what a practitioner would consider black magick was common, so much so in fact that it is hard not to chuckle at the blatant irony. One would expect black

28 magick from a witch, but what I heard and saw was just the opposite. Every practitioner I interviewed knew the consequences of misplaced anger and even grey magick. Magick is the bending of energy, and everything (thoughts, spells, desires) bends energy to some degree, and manifests on the material realm, whether or not it was the desired manifestation. The witch makes it their business to know how this works and to take an active participant role, as well as a full responsibility role, of the outcome. Further, the understanding of magick crossed into the arena of labels and changing one’s language, the practitioner knew that a spell or magick wasn’t different, it was just perceived differently. An example of this is demonstrated by Cindy when she says, Those who have asked me what is a spell, or why would you do a spell, and a spell is the same thing you do when you’re praying or wishing for something, we just use props The reference to using props is a common understanding among practitioners of the magickal lifestyle, but particularly Wiccans whom use prescribed altar tools to act out ritual casting, or spell working, or praying. Shamans also use tools, though depending on the form of shamanism the tools vary. In Peruvian Shamanism stones play a vital role in
Black magick is commonly understood as the type of magick that tries to overwhelm someone else’s will for one’s own end. From my field notes it is generally understood that love spells are black magick and should not be used as their consequences can be dire. Grey magick is a conceptual spectrum. For example, some forms of magick are reflective and bounce back bad energy at the sender. This is a form of grey magick. It’s not completely intentional on the practitioner’s end, if no bad energy is sent their way then there will be no harm, but this also will knowingly send back the bad energy, ultimately harming the sender. Many forms of magick reside in this spectrum of ethical debate. Ultimately, when faced with the above scenario, the practitioner that doesn’t want to participate in any form of grey or dark magick will set up a ethereal protection that will not bounce back energy, but will ground the energy that comes at them, protecting both the practitioner and the sender (Conway, 43).
2 1 2 1

29 the working of magick or interacting with the universe. The kinds of tools that you would find on a Wiccan altar are candles for the four directions, candles for the Goddess and the God, and incense; the tools vary depending on the pantheon of the practitioner or the purpose of the ritual. Tools you would find in a Peruvian Shaman mesa bundle would be stones representing the four regions, and a keystone, or center-piece, representing the practitioner which often includes stones or sacred objects that represent Pachamama (mother earth) and Inti-TayTay (father sun). Palo Santa is an aromatic wood that is burned for incense in the Peruvian tradition and is often kept in the bundle as well. You’ll notice there are similarities across pantheons. The practitioner of the magickal lifestyle knows however, that tools are not necessary to cast magick or commune with the universe. Calliope mirrors this sentiment exactly when she says, I used to be very tool dependent and now my poor tools hardly ever see me anymore, but of course I always knew that they were just props, I knew that if they had magick in them it was only cuz I put it there, umm, that they were tools to help me focus and I don’t really need them the way that I used to Here she is saying that her magickal tools, the tools and props that she uses for ritual, have not been used in a long time. Further, she is expressing the idea that the tools are merely instruments for focusing one’s energies. By learning all of the basic ritual design with props and a script one can familiarize themselves with the basic tenets of belief. The directions are east/air, south/fire, west/water, and north/earth. The Goddess is the archetypical energy that can give birth, that can utilize directed energy and mutate

30 that energy into a creation. The God is an archetypical energy that projects energy outward, that directs energy. The Sacred The idea and understanding that the sacred is everywhere, but ultimately comes from within, is an aspect of the magickal lifestyle. Every macrocosm is a reflection of the microcosm. The sacred is ultimately a part of everything, but it takes the acknowledgement of the practitioner to really understand and recognize what is going on. The symbols (altar tools and language) are used to represent sacred elements that are archetypical throughout life. Interacting with these symbols taps into the universal energy that is within everything and puts the practitioner in direct communion with divinity. The tools help one to visualize and familiarize themselves with the different forms of energy, but ultimately no tool is necessary. There are many similarities between different religions; however, this is not the scope of my paper. My focus is specifically on the experience of magick. The magickal lifestyle gives the practitioner permission to interact with the universal energy, allows for experimentation and evolution of the spirit through spell casting, assemblage point movement and deity invocation. This is an experience that both empowers and frightens the young practitioner of the magickal lifestyle, as well as expanding their intuitive abilities. For example the interviews with my younger witches (mid 20s) revealed an internalized questioning of sanity, and as such the mere presence of my thesis and the fact that they were being interviewed served as a mechanism of comfort, or validating that they are not crazy. They were excited that I understood what they were talking about and

31 could share stories that were similar. They mentioned how nice it was to be able to share their experiences with me, and how they don’t often get the chance to. The older practitioners did not question the sanity of their experiences, but many mentioned that early on in their experiences they would wonder if they were just going crazy, and find ways to validate that they weren’t. A good example of this is when Anniitra says, But after the ritual, and I played music and then the next day, and the reason it was so profound is I thought I was seeing things, and the next morning a feather was on the floor, and it wasn’t one I had already, it was right there where she was standing. She is talking about a magickal experience she had wherein a woman appeared to her in her living room. This woman was not physically there, but was an apparition, or spirit, that was visiting her. She appeared with some feathers in her hand, and the next day when Anniitra woke up there was a feather in the spot where she had been. The feather, that was unlike any feather she had, served as proof that what she had experienced was real. Until she saw the feather she thought that she had maybe gone crazy, or drunk a little too much wine. The feather was a sign from the universe that she was in direct communion. Anniitra was questioning herself early on, wondering if she was just seeing things, but then experiences that happened afterward, for example, the feather being where the ethereal woman stood, was proof that the experience had occurred and what she saw was more than an apparition, or a trick of light, but an actual occurrence. This is a common theme that I found among my interviewees, and also for myself, I have found that early on things would happen and I would wonder if I was just losing my mind. I had

32 experiences that could not be explained away by my logical mind, no matter how many ways I tried to dissect it. I would feel isolated because no one in my peer group was interacting with this magick, and in this solitude I would start to feel insecure. Luckily right when I thought I was going to lose my mind someone would appear in the physical world and tell me about experiences similar to mine that they had. I would be assured, and continue on with my learning. This is an important social phenomenon, and could be explored more in-depth, though it is not within the scope of my project. The realization that the practitioner is not crazy because a point of departure for the subversion of one’s standpoint of knowledge. The practitioner is suddenly able to reconcile that their experience is real, and in turn different from what their normal reality. This is an important experience as it creates community among various practitioners, finding solace in their similarities. Commonality and community is established creating strength in the group. Further, the group is a foundation to continue exploration into changing one’s reality, and later, one’s standpoint of knowledge. Community Creation and Knowledge Building My initial hypothesis was that when someone says they experienced magick they are going to use metaphor to explain their experience, but that there will be a common theme of wholly authentic experiences that are unique to each practitioner. When I am in an interview and I say, “Yeah, I had this experience, that is kind of like that,” there is a common agreement of understanding and a sort of joy in seeing that someone understands them, but completely unique, neither of us expects the other to fully understand. This is not different from any other common culture of meaning, except there

33 is a tinge of realization that this mutual understanding validates one’s experiences with magick. The degree of societal acceptance of a particular group will ultimately affect the way that the common culture of meaning evolves. What I found interesting, even more interesting than the metaphors being used, was the fact each interview was a knowledge building experience for me and the interviewee, we co-created each other’s ideas of the magickal lifestyle. Where I expected the commonality to end at the metaphor, in actuality sharing experiences was more like swapping recipes. This co-creation didn’t rely as much on the utilization of metaphor, as it did on the reference to cosmology, and the ability to find commonality amid the varying pantheons of belief. One woman said, The amazing thing about Wicca is that it is not a dead religion, it is constantly being co-created with its practitioners, it’s not a set religion and it’s not, it’s completely fluid

This really caught my attention because she said it is a living religion, a religion that is tangible to the hands, mutable, co-created by its practitioners; revolutionary! Furthermore, as I was transcribing the interviews I realized that my interviews were a cocreation; that with each piece of knowledge shared between practitioners there was a new understanding of reality for each person involved. I started telling my friends that I thought every person that was new to Wicca should be required to interview other Wicca practitioners; it was an idea, and a joke. This is the point though, the creation of

34 community by sharing experiences with magick, a community that, first and foremost, believes in magick. My own personal experience with these interviews is that I was able to augment my spiritual practice with the different techniques that my interviewees talked about; dance, breath, sound, etc. Before I engaged in this thesis project I had no idea that I would be learning new techniques, new concepts, and new variations of magick, I only anticipated the comfort of commonality, and revelations of language. This knowledge sharing is an aspect of the common culture of meaning that is created when practitioners of the magickal lifestyle interact. Often the practitioners will hope to gain new insights, new techniques, new understandings from their cohorts even though they may practice different brands of magickal lifestyle (i.e., Shaman, Wiccan, Druid, etc.) there is still a consensus that new information is worthy of integration into their cosmology, moreover that their cosmology can be adjusted and expanded. I am not arguing that the practitioners of the magickal lifestyle are without fault, we are not all completely enlightened, un-egotistical mages; we fall prey to the same tension as the rest of humanity. A good example of the intricacy of this phenomenon can be seen when Cindy says, We still follow the same traps as other religions and respect people who are published and respect people who have blah di blah and have certain initiations and degrees, and fall into the same traps as anybody else, but if we pull back we know what the truth is and the truth is that everybody has their own journey to travel and as neo-pagans who are honest with ourselves, and our consciousness is elevated enough no matter how old you are, we give everybody their freedom to enjoy the journey, where they’re at on it and the truth that that bares for that person.

35 Here we see that practitioners of the magickal lifestyle can and do have infighting, ‘witch wars’, and practices deemed better than others because of publication. This is just like other religions that fight about whose version is more right; however, the overarching understanding of the magickal lifestyle is that the seeker or practitioner must find their own path to the hidden truth, and that this truth comes in many ways. The practitioner’s cosmology includes changeability and personal evolution through the spiritual journey, which includes complete changes in a belief system. Changing doesn’t negate the value of the practice, but adds a dimension of dynamic beliefs, and forces openness to new ideas. It is a living tradition and it bends in the wind, it allows co-creation and the people who interact with life under the influence of this perspective seem to understand that pieces of the puzzle can all be put together, that each person is their own puzzle; can be taught and learned from. Labels The knowledge building that was present in my interviews goes hand in hand with the language used, which not only followed metaphors, and drew on cosmology but also showed a keen understanding of the limitations of labels. I noticed that various techniques were employed to help explain magickal experiences, as well as various comparisons, especially if someone were trying to explain their experience to a nonpractitioner of the magickal lifestyle. Changing one’s language so that the practitioner can be fully heard, and understood, was a common theme among my interactions with the magickal culture, and it helps illustrate how one uses language to explain the unexplainable.

36 The understanding that different labels do not necessarily constitute differences was a common theme. This was especially prevalent when I asked my interviewees about changing their language when talking to non-magickal people. Each person understood the concept that just because the language varied did not mean that the reality was any different. Often if a practitioner of the magickal lifestyle were interacting with a nonpractitioner about spiritual matters they would shift their language, and use Christian paradigms to explain their point. Some respondents, however, made it a point to say that they did not change their language because they wanted recognition of the magickal lifestyle as something real. This is similar to the idea of coming out of the closet for homosexuals, in that by letting people know who exactly is gay, give a name and a face to gay people, it is harder for the non-homosexual to buy into homosexual discrimination. These practitioners that did not change their language did however know full well that the actions were the same: there is no real difference between a prayer and a spell. Using the word spell is revolutionary. Many participants, however, did change their language and the theme of “so they can hear what I am saying” was constant throughout. It is a given that if a practitioner of the magickal lifestyle uses words that will scare their audience then the audience will not hear what they are saying, only focus on the deviant form of spiritual practice. For example, Aradia said, Depending on where I am I’m a witch, when I am around a buncha witches ‘cuz they know what that is. But if I’m around a bunch of Christians then you’re awakened or something, a different aspect in order for them to kinda understand because the point is to spread understanding not to close doors, so, and I don’t have labels.


Here she is saying that she refers to herself as a witch if she is around a bunch of witches because she knows what they practice and believe, and her beliefs are synonymous. She then explains that when she is around a bunch of Christians she would use a word like awakened, or whatever other word would be accepted as a Christian mystic, but wouldn’t offend the Christian’s belief system. Further she is saying that she is trying to spread understanding, not to close doors, so by changing her language to words that aren’t scary she is able to easily communicate with people of different faiths. Not changing your language is a revolutionary act, but also changing your language is a radical statement. It is the act of saying ‘I am experiencing a spiritually profound evolution and I am going to share it with people’. The acknowledgement that the magickal lifestyle is profound, enlightened, leads to spiritual growth, and furthermore should be shared with non-practitioners so that they too can grow. Changing one’s language to fit the dominant paradigm, but still reflect the lessons garnered in the magickal lifestyle, is a form of claiming legitimacy. Labels could either lend to or detract from one’s understanding and so using the appropriate labels to be heard was a common experience. An unanticipated side-note regarding labels however, was that many of my respondents did not call themselves witches. Some would call themselves Druids, Goddess-women, Wiccan, awakened, spiritual, or shaman as a means of lessening the stigma of what they practice. The external and internalized definition of witch was too much for some practitioners, for example we see Michael demonstrate this perfectly when he says,

38 um, witch just is the hooked nose, green skin thing that houses fall on and that’s something I probably need to get over, but that’s where I’m at right now, 20 something years into the craft (hint of humor) So we see that the negative association with the word witch was still an issue for many of my respondents. The stereotypes applied to the term witch are often connotative of wickedness, evil, or bad: in other words, someone who deserves the punishment that the burning times delivered. I have mentioned before that being a witch was still illegal in England up until 1951, a fact that may keep many witches hidden away in the broom closet. The few women that did call themselves and consider themselves witches were the feminist reclaimers, the Dianic practitioners that considered the word witch an awesomely empowering declaration of womanhood. The women I interviewed who were in their 20s didn’t not consider themselves witches but preferred not to take on the label, which they saw as hindering understanding and knowledge. This may be a venue for future sociology of religion research as it is a rather unanticipated finding. Standpoint Knowledge I have found that all of the men and women cognitively believe in and interact with both a masculine and feminine deities, which in turn affects their personal narrative and further transforms the way in which they experience standpoint knowledge. Standpoint theory postulates that life experiences are judged from a perspective that is affected by gender, social class, race, etc. (Smith 1992). The stories I have heard incorporate both men and women invoking a Deity or shifting ethereal energy, and in
3 3

Except for Dianic practitioners, who recognize masculine deities, but purposefully decline from invoking them in their rituals.

39 turn embodying a wholly different reality than the one that they usually interact with, thus subverting their standpoint of knowledge. Invoking Difference & Being Different Of the invocation tales, my favorite example was told to me by a woman, Calliope, who had been asked to invoke the Mother-Goddess energy. They asked me to play the mother-Goddess and I felt kind of odd about that it’s not one that I usually do, I usually kind of avoid it, it doesn’t, that’s not me, I’m not a mother . . . one of the things we’ve learned (my friends and I) is that when you’re resisting something sometimes that means that’s exactly where you need to go, so I thought, okay, they want me to do it, they have the confidence that I’m the right person to do this, and so I need to get out of my own way and just do it and be open to it, and it was another one of those transformational experiences when I kind of put my costume and kind of introduced myself to the group, I became the mother and people had lined up ‘cuz they wanted mother’s love and I loved, I truly loved, every person who came to me.” First Calliope says that her coven asked her to play the role of the mother Goddess, now I should explain what exactly that entails. When the Goddess in invoked she is called into the body of the practitioner, and the person becomes the Goddess. The energy that is invoked depends on the type of Goddess that is called into the practitioner. For example, if I needed to call of the power of the female warrior I might call Diana into myself, take on her knowledge and her confidence. Diana is the Roman Goddess of the hunt, among other things. Each God/dess has an array of particular talents and can be called on for various functions, so even though Diana is the Goddess of the hunt, she is also the Goddess of childbirth. The deities are as complex as humanity. Now Calliope is a little nervous, and resisting the task. She doesn’t identify as a mother, and she knows that when she invokes the mother Goddess energy she will be taking that into her, she will become a mother (not literally, but energetically). Further

40 she says that she has learned that the mere presence of resistance against something is an indicator that that is exactly what she needs. This is known as one of the mysteries, something in life that recurs and is best accepted to lessen the anxiety. Taking oneself out of their comfort zone is a basic tenet of the magickal lifestyle. Invoking energies that are not your own will change you and force you to look at life through different lenses. Calliope didn’t feel like a mother. She also didn’t feel as if her coven mates were pushing an archetypical type of womanhood on her but rather that they were giving her an opportunity to experience a type of womanhood that she does not usually engage. In the terms of gendered knowledge she is not referencing her life experience as something less than or greater than the experience of a man, or the normalized expectation of a woman (to bare children) but that she didn’t consider herself a mother, and this was an opportunity to become that without actual offspring. Calliope was asked to, and able to, invoke the Mother-Goddess energy into her being thereby becoming a Goddess-head, an incarnate of a deity, a vessel for the energy to manifest. The practitioner of the magickal lifestyle believes that magick is real, experiences magick, and the invocation of a Goddess is a tangible experience, so much so that Calliope was nervous. Furthermore, each practitioner I interviewed has had experiences with magick wherein their environment was affected by a manifested intention. As Calliope invoked the Mother-Goddess she explained that she actually felt love for these people; that love was an unlikely emotion to come from her towards strangers, but that it welled-up inside her, spilling onto those who witnessed. In exchange for the

41 courage of invoking a Goddess, she was gifted the experiential reference of that feeling. Calliope’s ability to become a Mother-Goddess was empowering, illuminating, and a worthwhile experience to add to her reservoir of life. It was not an experience of “okay, you’re a mother now, and feel how worthless you are, the ultimate expression of femininity and so much less than the role of man”; no, it was an experience of “imagine what this may feel like, now that you have experienced it you will forever know it.” Moreover, Calliope then told me a story about her friend Andy who had an experience invoking a God: At the Summer Solstice the new God battles the old God, and I had a bunch of those cinnamon brooms and we rolled ‘em all together to be the old God and we decorated him all up and we put a red rose right where his heart should be so he was the old God and then we asked Andy to be the new God and battle the old God. He’s a big fan of the Aztecs and the Mayans and the whole eating of your enemies heart thing so he’s fighting (in the ritual), he battling . . . and finally he just goes in and he grabs the heart rose and he stuffs it in his mouth . . . then he was really into it until he realizes he’s gotta mouth full of rose, but the show must go on, and he managed to swallow it, wow!! Here we see a man, Andy, invoking the energy of the new God, invoking the energy of the battle between summer and winter, embodying the Gods of the cosmology he most identifies with and experiencing a scenario that is manifesting through ritual. He gets so taken up in the experience of the battle, in the experience of eating thy enemy’s heart that he manages to actually swallow the rose petals. This story is from the perspective of Calliope and so we have no way of knowing what Andy was experiencing in this ritual, it would be interesting to find out what he was thinking, feeling, responding to, in those moments.

42 Invoking a certain deity in ritual, doesn’t stop at human experiences, Marguerite told me of her favorite magickal experience being her wolf dance, wherein she embodied the wolf archetype: My wolf dance! OH MY GOD! This is my favorite recent magick story.. I was asked to be in a show and they gave me prehistory. How am I supposed to do prehistory in this particular type of dance!? So, I have this skin that was given to me in the 80s, it’s a full, huge wolf skin, I fit inside of it, and I’ve always wanted to do a stage performance with this thing, and a lot of the styles of folkloric dance that I do has to do with trance, certain types of moves, spinning or whirling, rocking the body, utilization of hand held instruments that refer to trance states not from something that anybody would identify as shamanic dance . . . I know that I could make this look like a totem performance, like a bear dance, but not a bear dance . . . It was really amazing, it was very very magickal and it was kind of like the symbol that kept reappearing many many times.

Marguerite is telling the story of her wolf dance, of the experience she had during a ceremony where she put on a wolf skin and became the wolf in order to alter the space of the ceremony. This experience enabled her to not only shift her own standpoint of knowledge, but also shift the energy if the entire room. The people experiencing her ceremony also participated in altered states of consciousness, and possibly shifted realities of perception. It is, however, impossible for me to find the people who experienced her wolf dance to ask them what exactly they experienced, so I will only focus on Marguerite. Marguerite’s experience of becoming the wolf enabled her to create ritual space or sacred space for all the people that were watching her perform, she invoked the energy of the wolf because she had been having synchronicities with wolf symbolism and wolf stories that culminated in her embodying the wolf and gaining a whole new experience of

43 self. She was neither he nor she but wolf, the archetype that has a direct connection to spirit and who is considered a teacher in many pantheons (not to be confused with coyote who is considered the trickster). Marguerite’s knowledge standpoint as a human is altered during her ceremony, as she becomes wolf. Marguerite does not physically shape-shift into the animal, but rather her perception of reality is shifted from her normal experience to that of the spirit she is invoking. A person’s standpoint of knowledge is dictated by their position in society: sex, race, socio-economic status. If, however, this position can be altered, even if only during the duration of a ceremony, one has still subverted their standpoint of knowledge having forever the reference of memory of being someone/something different. Responses about magick many times held the sentiment of understanding previous circumstances, and taking further action to change them, or the perception of them. My argument that the practice of magick, or the manipulation of ethereal energies, being implemented to change one’s standpoint of knowledge can be seen throughout the responses from my interviewees. Whether or not the actual magick can be measured or proven is inconsequential as it is the experience of the practitioner that I am concerned with. The first three examples that I have discussed seem obvious in that the standpoint is definitely changed, if only for the duration of the ceremony, yet reference able in future life experiences. Thus, when I began to look at the pattern of how the implementation of magick affected my interviewees I realized that the changing of knowledge standpoint is a fundamental part of the magickal lifestyle. Another example of this is from an

44 interviewee, Carla, who told me of a magickal experience she had that helped her to understand why she could not have children in this lifetime, The main thing is I can’t have kids, and I wanted to find out why I couldn’t have children cuz I’ve always had the feeling ‘just can’t have kids’, so I went to a friend or a person that I knew at that time, and they did a regression with eye to eye contact . . . I visualized where I was, it was way way back way far back, I was giving birth to a child, I was laying on a rock having the child, like a table a rock table, and as I was crowning, it was a little girl, I know it was a little girl, I saw her briefly, and then the father of the child came up and slit my throat. That brought me out. They were taking her away and he killed me. So, the essence or reason for me understanding my past life as to why I couldn’t have children was because of what happened with my child, my daughter that was taken away from me. The man who I trusted, the father of the child, was the one who slit my throat. Carla is describing a past life regression that she had performed for her. The practitioner implemented a technique of regression using eye to eye contact. When Carla was taken back to the lifetime that was connected to her inability to have children she experiences giving birth and then being killed by the baby’s father. As soon as he killed her she came out of her trance and now held an experience and a knowledge that she had not had before. A little back information is necessary at this point. In my interviews and field notes I have found that most practitioners of the magickal lifestyle believe in the concept of past lives and reincarnation. Now the conceptual framework of past lives varies from practitioner to practitioner, many times depending on the pantheon or sect from which they were trained. The technique of past life regression varies from practitioner to practitioner and is not necessarily employed by all; however, as a technique it is considered magick. The practitioner employing past life regression has to bend the energy of the client in order to get them into an altered state of consciousness and regress them. The regression

45 experience takes place in the ethereal realms of pre-incarnation memory. Carla’s experience changed her standpoint of knowledge when she remembered giving birth to a baby girl. She transformed from a woman who could not have children, to a woman who had given birth before, and experienced great trauma. Her murder after the birth of her child was the point in which her spirit decided to not have children again. Before Carla came into contact with this knowledge she had a different standpoint of knowledge. In my field notes and interviews with neo-shaman I have found the same phenomenon. Further, the shamanic cosmology utilizes changing one’s standpoint of knowledge in order to perform particular types of magick. In my interview with Edythe she speaks of the technique she teaches her students so that they may be able to transform their lives. You must change the position of your assemblage point in order to shift your perceptual state of awareness in order to gather information about what’s going on but removed from your emotional state of being. One way to do this is to shift your assemblage point into your lower chakra in order to engage the seeing state of serpent and change your external perception. This quote is packed with information about shamanic practices, and may be quite baffling to the reader. To break this down Edythe is saying that the practitioner needs to manipulate ethereal energy, or move the assemblage point, in order to shift their perspective, or knowledge standpoint. The shift is a specific technique that is employed commonly when trying to gather information about one’s environment. The shaman must understand the full picture of their environment in order to act from a place of power, and to gather this information the shaman must shift their knowledge standpoint. Ultimately it is the goal of the shaman to become unattached to their given standpoint; the shaman is

46 free of the constraints of the mundane world. Shifting the assemblage point is in fact the definition of changing one’s standpoint of knowledge. It is not necessary to prove that the standpoint of knowledge was shifted by finding various methods of measurement, as the practitioner experiences an altered standpoint of knowledge. The experience is used as a tool to gather information that would otherwise be unavailable to the practitioner, and this knowledge is used to change guide one’s further interactions with their environment. Another shaman that I interviewed, Isabella, also spoke of subverting one’s knowledge standpoint. She did not speak of the assemblage point, but she did speak of people’s ‘stories’, their standpoint of knowledge that they are trapped into, and replay over and over as their reality. We talk about our stories, and it’s all about our stories, and we talk about how fucked up it is, “You know, it’s fucked up, man!” and how fucked up we are, you know, and then we create more of that story and it gets bigger and bigger and juicier and juicier. Rather than going, “No, that story no longer serves me.” You have to move that out of your body, out of your energy body, let that go, and reweave a new story of beauty and light and wonder and fulfillment and prosperity. Again, this quotation may confuse the reader. What Isabella is saying is that we as humans trap ourselves in our standpoint of knowledge, in the situations which created our position in society. This loop of story that is played over and over, in the mind and in the language used, propagates its own continuation. Isabella is expressing that the condition of retelling our story is the condition of reifying our standpoint of knowledge as a prison, or as a place that cannot be escaped. Like Edythe, Isabella then goes on to say that the shaman’s duty is to help facilitate the movement out of that space of cyclical selfdestruction. In order to overcome the hardships that have come before Isabella says one

47 must “move out of your body.” This is interesting because it is in essence the exact same thing that Edythe said, but using different language. Isabella knows that in order to recreate one’s life from a different standpoint they must first free themselves from the physical trap. To move out of their body, the shaman manipulates ethereal energy, or does magick, so that the client may experience a different standpoint of knowledge that they can then reference as their reality, ridding themselves of their old story. As we can see in both Edythe’s and Isabella’s quotes, changing one’s standpoint of knowledge is a revolutionary action of reclaiming oneself, instead of their story. A person’s position in society, their standpoint of knowledge, can be altered and subverted with the use of magick. Moreover, practitioners of the magickal lifestyle regularly use various forms of magick, invocation, moving out of their body, or movement of the assemblage point, in order to specifically change their position of knowledge. Magick can be, and is, used to gain greater understanding and a wider reference of reality. In fact, the ability to change one’s reality, to shift one’s standpoint of knowledge is often times a draw to, and a deterrent from, the magickal lifestyle. Magick is not only used to shift one’s reality, but it can be. This idea of greater knowledge and full responsibility for one’s reality is both empowering and scary. As Calliope puts it, When you say, “Okay, it’s my will, and I’m going to change my reality,” that scared people; to actually own that power and take the leap of faith that you could actually have an impact on your internal and external environment Calliope is saying that magick is a great privilege that comes with heavy responsibility can test the courage of those not ready to step into their full power. Further, Calliope is also saying that magick can and does shift one’s internal and external

48 environment. The idea that one can shift their internal environment, or their perception of reality, is a core tenet of the practice of magick. Similar to what Neitz (2000 & 2004) found, that one could play with their standpoint of knowledge by queering the female role play in ritual, I have found that one can actually change their standpoint of knowledge through magick. Subverting Standpoint By agreeing to invoke various energies one agrees to widen their field of perspective. From what I have observed, and what I have read (Neitz 2004), the practitioner of the magickal lifestyle ultimately wants to embody different perceptions of reality in order to gain a wide knowledge base, and a shifted standpoint. The implementation of magick is not a trick of solely achieving the mundane goals of wealth, health, and fame; magick is much more intricate and can be used to achieve high states of wisdom and knowledge. The use of magick to shift one’s perspective ultimately begins to achieve this goal, to subvert one’s position of knowledge in society and expand their knowledge base. Calliope’s example she was asked to embody a Mother-Goddess not because she was already such a motherly person, but because she wasn’t, thereby creating a more whole perspective; in the words of William Blake, from the book of poetry entitled The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1794), "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern” (14). This quote inspired the writer Auldous Huxley in his work The Doors of Perception (1990), wherein the

49 concept is derived that once you open the doors they are forever open and available for reference. Why am I suddenly referencing Huxley and Blake? Because I want to better describe how the invocation of deities that personify archetypical energies can forever alter the human database of referenceable experiences. Each of these people has told me a story where they brought in energy that they were not familiar with, thereby expanding their personal, internal, database of knowledge; their standpoint of knowledge is subverted by their magickal experiences. Meaning-Making and Common Experience Meaning-making is created by a group for the purposes of bringing people together against a common enemy (Dill 1982); however, it is also used to create cohesion within a group. The magickal lifestyle is no exception. In my observations and interviews I have found that various methods are employed to establish a common culture of meaning, most notably however was the simple belief in, and experiences with, magick. In my interviews I found that sharing my own personal experiences with magick not only jogged the memory of my participants but also opened the door for them to share more; I too had experienced magick. I too am a practitioner of the magickal lifestyle. This fact made the interview process easy, the stories would flow as the practitioners were sharing with one of their own, and not telling an outsider that which may be deemed ‘crazy’. This brings up an interesting chasm, however, as my research is focused on finding out how practitioners of the magickal lifestyle describe magick I realize now that this will/may vary depending on who they are talking to, notably non-practitioners.

50 This commonality creates a common culture of meaning, the participants in this social world know that symbols show up, that magick happens, and to pay attention to the message that is being brought from spirit. In my own experiences I had always been cynical; of institutions, of religion, of people’s motivations, etc. When I first started learning the magickal lifestyle one of my common mental traits whenever something significant occurred would be to systematically check all the mitigating factors that could have contributed to the occurrence, tried to explain it, so that when I couldn’t explain it then, and only then, was it real magick. Now I understand that even when the circumstances surrounding the occurrence actually created it there is still meaning if a meaning resounds in one’s inner spirit, and the core of one’s being. Furthermore, when a new initiate, or seeker of the mysteries, begins to question magickal results with cynicism and mentally checklists all possible contributing factors that would make the experience not magick, I see myself and other practitioners of the magickal lifestyle recognizing it as a necessary attribute of the initiation process. I also see that I and others will withhold information, stories, greater illumination from the seeker who is still checking the facts, checking for sincere divine revelations, not because they don’t deserve it or there is a hierarchy in place but because the seeker would not understand, doesn’t have the ears to hear, the eyes to see, or the wisdom to behold. Another aspect of internalizing and restructuring a sense of self, and others, is when the common culture of meaning begins to spill over onto definitions of popular culture, for example Marguerite spoke of the inaugural speech.

51 The last manifestation of it was the speech in the church after the inauguration by a woman who is the preacher, pastor or whatever they were calling her, she’s actually a priestess, a Christian Priestess, the first woman ever to give the inaugural sermon. Here we see that terms that would be used in the common culture of Wiccan meaning are being used to define a Christian, she is called a priestess. I am not aware of any Christian sects referring to their female leaders as priestesses, but by Wiccan definition this woman who leads in the church would be considered a priestess of the Christian God. Furthermore, seeing Wiccan concepts in other traditions is similar to the concept of referencing the dominant paradigm when explaining a different group (i.e., “A synagogue? That’s like a Jewish church?”). This is also the basis of gendered knowledge, the constant reference to the male perspective, or the dominant male mythology, is to compare all others to the male. So, in this twisty maze of an argument I am stating that Marguerite had managed to subvert the dominant paradigm by referencing a Wiccan concept when referring to a Christian example; this is the type of practice that is engaged in by practitioners of the magickal lifestyle, subverting gendered knowledge however still referencing gendered characteristics. Co-creation of Beliefs The concept of a living religion also bore some interesting fruit; a practitioner of the magickal lifestyle could hold any conglomeration of beliefs. I met a druid/Christian/Buddhist, a cabala practicing shaman, a Palo incorporating Native American traditions, voodoo practicing druids, Reiki practicing Christians, the hereditary Strega incorporating Catholicism, and my favorite, the Mormon turned Wiccan high

52 priestess. Each expressed that they understood all religions hold seeds of truth, one only needed pick the fruit that tasted best to them. As one woman said, “All different paths to the same mountain top.” Still this realization that I had interviewed people who mixed and matched their beliefs was awesome, as I realized that I too co-create my cosmology. Another realization occurred to me as I was ruminating on my experiences in the magickal lifestyle: this cocreation generally occurred with assistance from various God/desses. I had an experience where I did a spell, or prayed, to the Goddess Ma’at (of the Egyptian pantheon) and the events that followed were authentic to my initiation into the great mysteries. My interactions with Ma’at further defined my beliefs, and I based much of my knowledge of the great mysteries from that reference. Laura demonstrates this ability to comprehend as she spoke of her experience. It was 1976 and everyone was into mantras so I asked the Goddess to give me a little mantra and she did, she gave me a little phrase, “the priestess of Isis remembers the Goddess is everywhere.” I don’t share that too often but, you know, I was driving on Mulholland Drive and it just came into my mind and went oh, okay, and now what does that mean? I have no idea!

Here we see that she is gifted a mantra that hints to later experiences she may interact with as a Priestess of Isis. She spoke to the Goddess, with full anticipation of an answer, and received a mantra. It came to her, appeared in her head, and she knew it was hers. Her authentic road was co-created by her knowledge of mantras, her prayer to the Goddess, and the Egyptian pantheon. Further, Laura hints at another aspect of the magickal lifestyle, that she did not know what it meant, but she knew that now that she

53 had the mantra she would definitely come into contact with its meaning. She knows that not everyone will have this experience, that it is her experience, an aspect of the divine mysteries that she is a part of. Laura’s belief in, receipt of, and integration of the mantra is her co-creation with the Goddess. This understanding was shared with another participant, Robb, when he said, “Yet how do you describe the un-describable, it can only be experienced.” The common knowledge that each practitioner’s experience of magick, of healing, of the divine is completely authentic unto them creates a common culture of meaning and understanding. The practitioners search for words to share, but in actuality know that their experience is only to be experienced by them, it is their gift from the divine. So as you can see living the magickal lifestyle isn’t necessarily as alien as you might have expected; it is a contentious decision to pay attention, a co-creation of belief, and a desire to live fluidly, in step with the magick that is all around. My data have shown me that the interactions between practitioners of the magickal lifestyle are varied, and yet common, is accepting and constantly evolving; there is a knowledge of gender norms, and privileged male experience, and yet there is also a playing with these expectations, bending of norms. Overall the common culture of meaning that is created connects each practitioner of the magickal lifestyle, though their particular pantheons may vary.

54 The practitioner of the magickal lifestyle draws on subverted forms of standpoint knowledge and creates meaning through interaction with other practitioners of the magickal lifestyle who are also co-creating their religion.

Commonality in understanding the sacred, the co-creation of religion, the acceptance & knowledge building of eclectic traditions, and the ability to play with one’s gendered understanding.



In my research I have found that magick can be employed through various techniques, and for numerous reasons. One of the ways that magick is used is to change one’s standpoint of knowledge. The stories I have heard incorporate both men and women invoking a Deity or shifting ethereal energy, and in turn embodying a wholly different reality than the one that they usually interact with, thus subverting their standpoint of knowledge. The ability to shift ethereal energies within and around their self in order to change their standpoint of knowledge is not bound only to human experience. Practitioners of various cosmologies used invocation, or shifting of the assemblage point, in order to embody the perception of various animals. Practitioners of the magickal lifestyle change their standpoint of knowledge in order to gain further insight into situations and/or people. In turn, their personal narrative is affected and further transforms the way in which they experience knowledge. Information and clarity gained during magick becomes a memory that can be referenced. These interviews have expressed what I see as both a community and internalized narrative of interacting with a ethereal energies and a ‘living religion’, a mythology and ideology that is interactive and continually evolving and recreating itself through the interpretation and interaction of its practitioners. The magickal lifestyle is a living cosmology, an evolving cosmology, and a cosmology that changes with each person 55

56 uniquely; it is as eclectic as each practitioner, and this fluidity lends to the ability to restructure the internalized sense of self, to alter one’s perspective on their community, and ultimately reality. Magick as a lived experience ultimately alters the way its practitioners understand and interact with society, allowing them to consciously change their standpoint of knowledge. The stories I have heard incorporate both men and women invoking a Deity or higher power, and in turn embodying a wholly different reality than the one that they usually interact with. By agreeing to invoke various energies one agrees to widen their field of perspective. Each of these people has told me a story where they brought in energy that they were not familiar with, thereby expanding their personal, internal database, of knowledge. The magickal lifestyle gives the practitioner permission to interact with the universal energy, allows for experimentation and evolution of the spirit through spell casting, energy shifting, assemblage point moving, and deity invocation. Each of these people has told me a story where they brought in energy that they were not familiar with, thereby expanding their personal, internal, database of knowledge. The practitioners search for words to share, but in actuality know that their experience is only to be experienced by them, it is their gift from the divine. The magickal lifestyle is a living religion. Often the practitioners will hope to gain new insights, new techniques, new understandings from their cohorts even though they may practice different brands of magickal lifestyle (i.e., Shaman, Wiccan, Druid, etc.) there is still a consensus that new information is worthy of integration into their

57 cosmology, moreover, that their cosmology can be adjusted and expanded. The magickal lifestyle includes changeability and personal evolution through the spiritual journey, which includes complete changes in a belief system. Changing doesn’t negate the value of the practice, but adds a dimension of dynamic beliefs, and forces openness to new ideas. In my observations and interviews I have found that various methods are employed to establish a common culture of meaning; most notably, however, was the simple belief in, and experiences with, magick. This commonality creates a common culture of meaning, the participants in this social world know that symbols show up, that magick happens, and to pay attention to the message that is being brought from spirit. In my observations and interviews I have found that various methods are employed to establish a common culture of meaning, most notably however was the simple belief in, and experiences with, magick. Some shortcomings that I am acutely aware of in my research: First and foremost I struggled constantly with my definition of the magickal lifestyle, and those who are practitioners. The magickal lifestyle is correctly defined, but it encompasses such a broad array of practitioners that the idiosyncrasies between groups will need to be investigated further. In the world of Wicca alone there are many different cosmologies being experienced and participated in, which one can only really string together with my classification for the magickal lifestyle, but which differ from each other much more than one would imagine. When I then add shamanism to the mix, I am further expanding the magnifying glass. There is no way that I would have access to a practicing shaman from

58 every culture, and Wicca seems to stem from a European shamanic practice. In fact I can say with authority that the only shamanic cosmology I have had access to is Peruvian, expressed through two women that do not originate from Peru. I primarily interviewed women, and the only two men were homosexuals, which I think is a testament to my own bias, and who I choose to consort with magickally. It would be advantageous to investigate a greater male perspective, to find if there are significant differences in types of magick practiced and how healings are performed.


Interview Schedule: My focus so far is actually an exploratory study of southern California witches and shamans. I am looking at the way language is used to explain the experience of magick and healing. My questions are geared at having ya'll tell me your story of how you got involved in and what you've experienced in witchcraft/shamanism. Also, I would like to remind you that you can revoke your consent at any time. These are the basic questions, though I will be listening to your answers and asking questions that reflect on what you have said. How did you become a witch or how did you discover you were a witch? If you consider yourself something other than a witch, what is that? I am interested in your story, how did happen to get involved with the Craft/practice? Were you raised with a particular religion? Tell me about that. Have you experienced magick? Tell me a story of your most profound magickal experience. Tell me your favorite magick story. Have you performed any healings? What can you tell me about your experience as a healer? Tell me your favorite healing story. 59

60 Do you tell non-magickal people about your healing and magick experiences? When telling others about healings or magick have you found that you have to change your language to explain? Lastly, here is your chance to tell the people in academia what it is you think they need to be studying, or an aspect they’ve missed that you think they should research further.

(From what I’ve experienced these questions take the interview to an hour, if not a bit more)


Adler, Margot. 1986. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today. Revised and Expanded ed. USA: Penguin/Arkana. Becker, Howard S., “Imagery,” Tricks of the Trade: How to Think About Your Research While You’re Doing it. The University of Chicago Press, 1998. pp. 10-66. Berger, Peter & Thomas Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality. Anchor Books, 1966. Blake, William. 1794. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Dover Publications: NY. Bloch, Jon P. 1998. "Individualism and Community in Alternative Spiritual "Magic"." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37(2):286-302 ( ------. 1997. "Countercultural Spiritualists' Perceptions of the Goddess." Sociology of Religion 58(2):181-190 ( Byrne, Rhonda. 2006. The Secret. Simon & Schuster. Cabot, Laurie and Tom Cowan. 1989. Power of the Witch: The Earth, The Moon, and the Magical Path to Enlightenment. New York, New York: Dell Publishing. Cameron, Sam. 2005. "Wiccanomics?" Review of Social Economy 63(1):87-100. Caulder, Sharon. 2002. Mark of Voodoo. St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications. Collins, Patricia Hill. “Moving Beyond Critique,” “Some Group Matters: Intersectionality, Situated Standpoints, and Black Feminist Thought,” and “Searching for Sojourner Truth: Toward an Epistemology of Empowerment.” Pp. 187-251 in Fighting Words: Black Women & The Search for Justice. University of Minnesota Press, 1998. Conway, D.J. 2001. Wicca: The Complete Craft. The Crossing Press, CA. 61

62 Dill, David. 1982. “The Management Of Academic Culture: Notes On The Management Of Meaning And Social Integration.” Higher Education 11:303-320. Durkheim, Emile. 1995. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Translated by Karen E. Fields. The Free Press: NY. Eller, Cynthia. 1995. Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America. Boston: Beacon Press. Ezzy, Douglas. 2006. "White Witches and Black Magic: Ethics and Consumerism in Contemporary Witchcraft." Journal of Contemporary Religion 21(1):15-31. Fabricant, Daniel S. & Norman R. Farnsworth, “The Value of Plants Used in Traditional Medicine for Drug Discovery” Environmental Health Perspectives, March 2001: vol. 109, supp. 1. Foltz, Tanice G. 2000. "Women's Spirituality Research: Doing Feminism." Sociology of Religion 61(4, Special Issue):409-418 ( Griffin, Wendy. 1995. "The Embodied Goddess: Feminist Witchcraft and Female Divinity." Sociology of Religion 56(1):35-48 ( Grimassi, Raven. 2003. The Wiccan Mysteries. Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications. ------. 2003. Spirit of the Witch: Religion & Spirituality in Contemporary Witchcraft. Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications. Hutton, Ronald. 2000. "Paganism and Polemic: The Debate over the Origins of Modern Pagan Witchcraft." Folklore 111(1):103-117 ( Huxley, Aldous. 1990. Doors of Perception, The \ Heaven and Hell. New York: Harper & Row. Jarvis, Christine. 2008. "Becoming a Woman through Wicca: Witches and Wiccans in Contemporary Teen Fiction." Children's Literature in Education 39(1):43-52 (; No). Jolles, Frank and Steven Jolles. 2000. “Zulu Ritual Immunization in Perspective.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 70(2): 229-248.

63 Jorgensen, Danny L. and Scott E. Russell. 1999. "American Neopaganism: The Participants' Social Identities." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38(3):325-338 ( Kaboru, Berthollet Bwira, Torkel Falkenberg, Jaue Ndulo, Maureen Muchimba, Kashita Solo and Elisabeth Faxelid. 2006. “Communities’ views on prerequisites for collaboration between modern and traditional health sectors in relation to STI/HIV/AIDS care in Zambia.” Health Policy 78:330-339. Krogh, Marilyn C. and Brooke A. Pillifant. 2004. "Kemetic Orthodoxy: Ancient Egyptian Religion on the Internet -- A Research Note." Sociology of Religion 65(2):167175. Krueger, Oliver. 2004. "The Internet as Distributor and Mirror of Religious and Ritual Knowledge." Asian Journal of Social Science 32(2):183-197. Legare, Cristine H. and Susan A. Gelman. 2008. "Bewitchment, Biology, or Both: The Co-Existence of Natural and Supernatural Explanatory Frameworks across Development." Cognitive Science 32(4):607-642 ( Lemert, Charles. “Imagining Social Things, Competently,” “Personal Courage and Practical Sociologies,” and “Practicing the Discipline of Social Things.” Pp. 1-46 in Social Things: An Introduction to the Sociological Life. Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, 2002. Letcher, Andy. 2001. "The Scouring of the Shire: Fairies, Trolls and Pixies in Eco-Protest Culture." Folklore 112(2):147-161 ( Magliocco, Sabina. 2004. Witching Culture: Folklore and Neopanism in America. University of Pennsylvania Press: Pennsylvania. McClenon, James. 1997. "Shamanic Healing, Human Evolution, and the Origin of Religion." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 36(3):345-354 ( McIntosh, Christopher. 2004. "The Pagan Revival and Its Prospects." Futures 36(9):1037-1041.

McKinley, Jesse. 2008. “On Parched Farms Intuition Used to Find Water” New York Times, Oct. 9.

64 McTaggert, Lynne. 2007. The Intention Experiment. Free Press. Mills, C. Wright. 1959. The Sociological Imagination. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Neitz, Mary J. 2000. "Queering the Dragonfest: Changing Sexualities in a PostPatriarchal Religion." Sociology of Religion 61(4):369-391. ------.2004. “Gender and Culture: Challenges to the Sociology of Religion.” Sociology of Religion 65(4):391-402. Nnko, Soori, Betty Chiduo, Flora Wilson, Wences Msuya, Gabriel Mwaluko and Wence Mruya. 2000. “Tanzania: AIDS Care: Learning from Experience.” Review of African Political Economy 27 (86):547-557. Okwu, Austine S.O. 1979. “Life, Death, Reincarnation, and Traditional Healing in Africa.” A Journal of Opinion 9(3):19-24. Opaneye, A. 1996. “The Challenges of Involving Traditional Healers in HIV/AIDS Care.” International Journal of STD & AIDS 18:68-69. Peltzer, Karl, Nolwandle Mngqundaniso and George Petros. 2006. “HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Knowledge, Beliefs and Practices of Traditional Healers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.” AIDS Care18(6):608-613. Perrin, Robin D. 2001. "When Religion Becomes Deviance: Introducing Religion in Deviance and Social Problems Courses." Teaching Sociology 29(2):134-152 ( Pino, Nathan W. 2003. "Reclaiming Deviance as a Unique Course from Criminology ReRevisited: Entering Delinquency into the Equation." Teaching Sociology 31(2):182-194 ( Report filed by Liaison Officer for Latin America. "H.H. the Dalai Lama Successfully Concludes His Visit to Peru." Thursday, 11 May, 2006, ( Romero-Daza, Nancy. 2002. “Traditional Medicine in Africa.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 583:173-176. Roof, Wade C., Anne E. Patrick, Ronald L. Grimes and Bill J. Leonard. 1999. "Forum: American Spirituality." Religion and American Culture 9(2):131-157 (

65 Rountree, Kathryn. 2002. "Goddess Pilgrims as Tourists: Inscribing the Body through Sacred Travel." Sociology of Religion 63(4):475-496 ( Sempruch, Justyna. 2004. "Feminist Constructions of the 'Witch' as a Fantasmatic Other." Body & Society 10(4):113-133. Smith, Dorothy E. 1990. “The Statistics on Women and Mental Illness.” The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge, Northeastern University Press, pp. 113-138. ------.1992. “Sociology from a Women’s Experience: A Reaffirmation.” Sociological Theory, The American Sociological Association 10(1): 88-98. Starhawk. 1989. The Spiral Dance. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Stark, Rodney. 2001. "Reconceptualizing Religion, Magic, and Science." Review of Religious Research 43(2):101-120 ( Stephen, Michele. 1999. "Witchcraft, Grief, and the Ambivalence of Emotions." American Ethnologist 26(3):711-737 ( Taylor, David A. 2001. “Ancient Teachings, Modern Lessons.” Environmental Health Perspectives 109 (5): A209-A215. Tosh, Nancy R. 2001. "Mirror Images: Wicca from the Inside Out and Outside In." Religion and the Social Order 9:197-222. Wallis, Robert J. 2000. "Queer Shamans: Autoarchaeology and Neo-Shamanism." World Archaeology 32(2, Queer Archaeologies):252-262 ( Yates, Gayle G. 1983. "Spirituality and the American Feminist Experience." Signs 9(1, Women and Religion):59-72 (