Among the kaleidoscope of practices and philosophies that shape the diverse form of witchcraft known as Faery, a popular saying arises again and again that describes what very well may be the singular heart of our tradition: "A witch bows to no one." It is offered as both advice and meditative device, the sentiment being one of claiming and protecting one's personal power and fully embracing one's own divine authority.
Training in our tradition is often a lengthy and demanding experience. Not unlike practitioners of a martial art, those who study Faery engage in a rigorous practice of self-reflection and transformation, examining in detail our fears and demons so that we may embrace the power of our shadow to become unhindered by it. Toward this end we may enlist the aid of certain spirits and powers, and may engage in acts of devotion or even worship. (Much of this work is detailed in my book, Betwixt and Between: Exploring the Faery Tradition of Witchcraft.) We may (and often do) ritually bow in reverence to a deity as a sign of respect, but it would be inaccurate to say that we "bow down" to them. We can be in service to the Gods without being in servitude to them. In Faery, the Gods are our equals.
To some this revelation might seem wrong or even shocking. Invariably we are the products of our society, which has infected our minds with a decidedly orthodox Christian sensibility. We are often taught to "fear God," which has inspired many a rebellious witch on their path of spiritual discovery. When we finally abandon the "false God" in favor of the Old Gods of our ancestry (or those of our inner longings) we sometimes bring the baggage of our previous religions with us. This can manifest as the freest and wildest among us—the true witches—casually giving their power away to another; squandering their birthrights and remaining slaves, their obedience having only shifted to a different master.
In Faery we are taught that nothing must come in between ourselves and our own personal God, or "God Soul" (what in BlueRose Faery we call the Holy Daemon). This expressly includes our work with other Gods and spirits. The admonishment to "never surrender our life force to anyone or anything" reminds us that we are fragile; we can be harmed or injured by giving away our precious power, regardless of the fact that this power might be directed to our Gods. We work with our Gods, not for them. We recognize that we are part of a large and complex network of interrelations in which we choose to participate in symbiotic relationships with other forms of life, both corporal and not. It is an energetic exchange that defines the relationship the Faery witch has with divinities: they need us just as much as we need them.
We work to feed our Gods so that they may do their work, and in return they give us what we need to do ours, which is ultimately our own evolution into Godhood: the wearing of our own Divine Crown. We do this through ritual, song, art, heart-felt expression, and acts of devotion. But decidedly not through subservience or blind obedience.
Victor Anderson (1917-2001), the late Grandmaster of our tradition, challenged us to approach deity on the same level as ourselves with his often-quoted phrase: God is self and self is God and God is a person like myself." In this almost "sing-song," child-like idiom we are given the means to engage the numinous—not as inferiors—but as equal participants. "God is self," describes the ultimate revelation: that God (often "God Herself," or, "the Star Goddess") is literally the quality of self-awareness. Sentience itself is the God/dess, not as abstraction but as an observable fact. "Self is God" reinforces this idea, underscoring the observation of self-awareness-as-divinity. I am God because I am self-aware. You are God because you are self-aware.
"God is a person like myself." Once we have established that each of us is actually God, then we—quite literally—approach God just as we would another person, not unlike ourselves. By approaching deity as an equal we are more open to the fullest range of engaged experience, as opposed to when we may approach said deity without this sense of balance. We each have a different function in this network of connections of which we are a part, none "higher" or "lower" than any other. Your heart, lungs, and liver each have different functions and are each essential to sustaining your life. How can we decide which of these are superior to the others? Even in the web of Gods and spirits we fulfill a much-needed function. "I am a cell in the body of the Goddess," Victor once proclaimed. "And I demand my rights!"
Just as old friends may meet and enjoy each other's company, we invite the presence of the divine into our sphere of awareness and we are changed ever so subtly. When we prepare for magical work we begin by performing what in Faery is often called a "Soul Alignment." This is the ritual harmonizing of one's "Three Souls," (or three parts of the soul, if you prefer). This expands our conscious awareness to include the primal and deific aspects of our own spiritual nature. In BlueRose this may be done by engaging the popular meditative device called "grounding," often using the visualization of oneself as a tree, with roots deep in the earth (fetch/primal soul), and branches high up in the heavens (Daemon/God soul), the trunk bridging them all together (talker/ego soul).
Once we have identified with our own God soul we may then approach other Gods and spirits as true equals, a state that provides us with a measure of protection from any potential negative effects that might result from the encounter. Don't be lulled into the false sense of security that comes from the (misguided) belief that personal allegiance with a particular deity will mean that they can never cause you harm. Just as any other universal force might be dangerous in the hands of one who does not possess the necessary skill to wield it, the Gods can just as easily blast us as well as bless.
In Faery we are often taught that to approach the Gods without this essential first step is to invite injury or madness. By harmonizing with our own "personal God," we strive to embody a spiritual container for the energies we are to invoke, energies that if tapped-into without proper preparation may overwhelm us. Were we to invoke the presence of a deity in our normal state of awareness there runs the risk of causing psychic strain or damage. As we work our practice we slowly build a sound container for spirit. Through grounding and the harmonization of our souls we ensure that we will not take on too much power that we can safely handle, the "excess" being safely channeled into the earth (much as like with a grounding wire). Through repeated practice our container becomes ever larger as we learn to be able to touch and wield greater and greater amounts of power and step into our authority. Any harm that may arise from working with spirit is honestly more often to do with our own psychological baggage than with any thing else. Personal cleansing rites are therefor an essential part of an effective Faery practice. Simple observances such as the Waters of Purity rite, or even more ritualized workings such as baths and even some forms of candle work, are utilized to help us first become aware of any internal stumbling blocks we may possess as well as giving us the means to transform and clear them. As a personal practice, purification becomes an endless way of life akin to brushing one's teeth. Spiritual hygiene is at the heart of the successful Craft practitioner.
In many lines of the Faery witchcraft tradition the first ritual act of any ceremony is the formal lighting of the Star Goddess candle. This is the formal recognition of the creation of the manifest universe, the "first light that divided the primal dark." This serves not only as a reminder of Her power, but also that Her power is our own. We focus on Her light as being one and the same as the light of divinity that burns like a fire within us all, as well as simultaneously in the candle before us. "All flames are One Flame." Once we have ritually claimed our divinity we may proceed as the divine beings we truly are; we may claim "the Witch's Crown" of our own divine sovereignty, firmly establishing our own self-authority as inviolate.
Begin by performing a grounding and centering exercise, such as the Faery "Soul Alignment" or another of your choosing. Imagine yourself as a great tree that spans all the worlds: your roots deep in the Underworld… your branches high up in the starry Overworld… and your trunk bridging and mediating these two presences through the Middleworld. Take a deep breath and imagine stepping backward, now seeing this ancient Faery Tree standing tall before you. Imagine that it is shining as if with an inner flame… and that this is one and the same as the flame of your own divinity, which now blazes within you. Focusing on this inner flame, light the Star Goddess candle, feeling how the flame of the candle, the flame of the tree, and the flame within you are all one and the same. Say,
In You we live, move, and have our being.
From You all things emerge.
And unto You all tings return."
If you are in possession of a physical crown take hold of it now, examining its construction. If you do not posses one, simply use your visualization skills to conjure one up. Traditionally, crowns were often made of metal, symbolizing steadfastness and legitimacy. What is your crown made from? Even if it is crafted from paper, imagine that this item symbolically represents the ancient crowns that once bestowed power, authority, and the right of divine representation on earth. Imagine your crown possessing this same strength of the earth, as well as being adorned with the celestial light of the stars, symbolizing the Godly "cosmic" awareness, fallen to earth in the love of those angels we sometimes call "the Watchers." To wear this crown will be to invoke your own God soul and to harmonize your earthly and celestial natures, thus effectively "shining the light from above" into the relative darkness of our personal spheres. This is what some Faery call "self-possession," i.e. being in full, harmonious contact with the Holy Daemon. Contemplating the joyous and solemn freedom and responsibility that comes from wearing this crown, shift your awareness into that of Enchantment, that state of mind in which you become one with the magic. Call out:
"Metal forged in flame of earth
and then bejeweled with starry light
The Witch's Crown I now call down
I am the [Queen/King/Monarch, etc.] of my own life!"
Physically (or in vision) place the crown upon your head. Imagine feeling the weight of it. Is it heavy or light? What does that tell you about your relationship to your own authority?
Contemplate the crown, both its construction and its purpose. How do you feel while wearing it? Check in with your physical body. What sensations are you experiencing? Be aware of your posture. What does it feel like to actually be the monarch of your own life? In this space –here and now—YOU are the queen, king, or monarch. YOU are the center of your own universe, everything else in your life revolving around you and your perspective. You are God Herself becoming aware of the universe through your unique vantage point. You are the Creator and the Creation. You are the Dreamer and the Dream.
Experiment by discovering how these sensations play out when confronted with a complex or obstacle. Recall a memory in which you had an emotionally negative reaction with someone, a time in which you felt uncomfortable or perhaps even intimidated by someone, especially a situation in which you felt blocked, stuck, or trapped. Call up your Witch's Crown and feel your divine authority. Now imagine stepping into that past situation once more, only now wearing your crown and feeling all the power and authority that it affords you. Allow your imagination to let the situation unfold in a new direction. How do you feel in this new version? How do you wield your authority? Are you a wise and benevolent leader? Or are you a controlling dictator? What does this tell you about your own foundation?
End by inwardly holding your crown as you remove the physical one and extinguishing the Star Goddess candle with the "Holy Mother" prayer once more. Record any experiences or insights you may have in your magical journal.
Repeat this exercise often in order to become better acquainted with your own divine power. Use it when doing other types of magic, such as spellcasting, in order to give your magic more power. The words you speak and the thoughts you think while consciously engaging your Witch's Crown will carry more weight. Make sure to use them both responsibly.