Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The POWAH of Labels

“... And so we start backwards. It's counter-intuitive, really.
Here, we say, let me placate you. Let me assure you that this is real. That it's just us rational folks here.

And so we strip out anything of worth from our reports; we end up with standard equations of Gematria, with endless lists of old names that might mean something. We prattle on about the spirits we've met.

It was a very powerful invocation,
we tell you, you should try it.

We tell you to banish. To invoke. To seek yourself. But we never bother to try and tell you why; that's actually too hard for some. So they hide their ignorance behind a seemingly endless array of trumped up Enlightened bullshit. But our power comes from the One, they tell you, so you shouldn't cast spells for yourself. Then you're abusing the power of The One.

We have entire covens – hundreds of them – that could fall over if a single angry youth cursed them. We have people that are too afraid things might go wrong to even try and use spells. People who claim to love life but think death is like, gross, man.”

- Unsent Letter, 10/07/08. Signed Jack.


(Hunting for Chaos Magick images brought this one up. So I said, what the Hell...)

Seeing some of the comments on Jason's blog post got me thinking about labels; and then I read this and thought some more about them. I'm part of the Golden Dawn; and I'm also a member of a secretive cabal of witches...

So why stick with the “chaos magician” label? What am I trying to get across? Why don't I throw on some pictures of a few dudes with horns, slap a “Wiccan” label onto this blog and simply get more blog readers? Or I could crank up my “spiritual Qabalistic lingo” and try and awe people about how in tune with angels and shit that I am...

There are a few reasons for that, and most of them have to do with the assumptions that the other labels bring. Most people have a fairly solid idea of what they think “Wicca” is – and let me just say that my comments do not match up with that concept. Whenever possible I make fun of Raymond Buckland, and I've never bothered to spare the so-called “Three-Fold Law” from my derision.

But wait!” Our would-be blog reader always seems to say: “How can you be (insert label) and not believe (insert idea)? I've been told by these Llewellyn authors that everyone believes it!”

And so I sidestep those debates with a clever divergence in label. As a Chaos Magician, I can discuss anything I like. I can be as dismissive or as positive as I like. I can play devil's advocate if I feel it's helpful to a discussion; or I can put on my “Theistic Thinkin' Cap” and turn my eyes towards theologians.

And I can use belief shifting to aid and abet any of these endeavors; I can engage a model to pry what bit of information I need out of it, discuss it “from outside” the model... And when I wish to directly engage that model, I can switch fully into in and take a ride.


As a late teenager, I finally settled on Chaos Magick for a singular reason: it was tacitly understood that you should have adventures. That the magician hiding in his bedroom was a downright shit magician. If you couldn't get results, observable ones, then you were “doing it wrong.” The results could be anything from a successful manifestation, the exact reverse or somewhere in between. The point was that something should happen, and using that as a template you could go back over your work.

What did you do right? What did you do wrong? What were better pathways toward manifestation you've thought of since then? What are pathways towards reverse manifestation?

It must be acknowledged that “magick” isn't half as cool as it is in the movies. I can't walk through walls, I can't levitate and hover off the ground, and I've never met a “Vampyre” that wasn't wearing way, way too much mascara.

But these things aside, the blurry line is within the range of what is and isn't acceptable practice. How about magick outside the circle? How about practice beyond the temple? Where you might be noticed... Where people might think you're crazy?

Can you hide in plain sight? I know teenagers that can glamor themselves up until they really do look like they're twenty-one. They can even sneak past bouncers with these glamors. Can you do that?


I hate using the term “Wicca” or “Wiccan.” Even if it could fit with my personal practices, I loathe it more than any other word bandied about. I loathe it when I read intelligent people trying to comment on Wicca and I realize they have no idea what they're talking about.

I loathe the fact that people use the term to denote things they dislike. I loathe the fact merely bringing up the word means that most of the time a trivial debate is about to ensue. Even if the discussion is fairly intelligent, it almost always arrives at exactly this place:

Well, what about that Wiccan Rede?”

What about it?”

Well, I mean, it tells you not to be bad, doesn't it?”

Okay, look, I know you're intelligent. So let's go over the facts. Because this discussion is already giving me a headache.”


What is the Wiccan rede? 'An ye harm none, do what thou will.'”

Okay, but...”

No, no. Let's be exact. 'And
you harm none, do what thou will.' Right?”

Does it follow this up with 'or you will be cursed by the Goddess for all eternity?”


Does it follow this up with

So. It's an admonition not to
harm people. What is harm? Physical or mental damage. Let's contrast this with the word 'hurt': 'to inflict with physical pain' or 'to cause emotional anguish.' One implies damage, possibly lengthy, the other does not. I'm being admonished not to intentionally inflict harm or maim you. It's The Golden Fucking Rule.”
Yeah, but that Three-Fold Law...”


So, you won't ever see me advertise myself as a Wiccan. Even if I was a Wiccan, chances are that you and I have very different ideas about what that may mean. And since I can't discuss what I would mean, if I were one, without getting into an argument with someone about who's “really right,” I just plain don't fucking bother.

I practice witchcraft. I got around to practicing that through the works of a guy named Austin Spare. Let's just leave it at that, shall we?


WitchDoctorJoe said...


As a "Wiccan" I agree, but I'm a Veritas Wiccan, and we got it like that.

I really loved this post. Encore!

Eldritch said...

I was a member of the anti-label movement...until it vanished in a puff of logic.

Psyche said...

"I don't do labels".

Every chaote says that. Proof.

Jack Faust said...

@Joe: Glad you approve! (Also: "Veritas Wicca" as a name cracks me up. It just puts this huge grin on my face. LOL.)

@Psyche: I did NOT say that! I said I stuck with the "chaos magician" label because it's less tiresome! (And so I labeled myself!) Hee.

Psyche said...

"So, you won't ever see me advertise myself as a Wiccan. Even if I was a Wiccan, chances are that you and I have very different ideas about what that may mean."

Same difference. Different kettle/pot/wok, same argument.

Jack Faust said...

@Psyche: Insufferable witch! LOL.

Okay, I concede that you have a point. And that any defense I use beyond the last sentence is a death sentence. Thus, you are right.

Jason Miller, said...

This is perhaps my favorite post that you have ever made.

Favorite line: "We have entire covens – hundreds of them – that could fall over if a single angry youth cursed them."

And of course probably my favorite image that you have ever put up. I am a sucker for Thigh Highs and Pink Pentagrams.

Excellent thoughts. It gives me new appreciation for what you do.

Norma said...

Love this post. I spent more than 10 years in Wicca and then just started feeling goofy and tied up with all of the inconsistencies and high-horseness and One True Way's and gave up. Then for a while I decided I was nothing. Then I tried out some new things for maybe five years, and decided I didn't know what I was exactly but I was something. Finally I settled on Practical Magician of Eclectic Stripe. Which is a fancy name for saying I know what I am and what I do, but they don't make a handy box for it and I can't find a book on it in the Llewellyn catalogue so whatevs I'm going to wander off and have a beer.

Love this post. You've put into words something that has bugged me for a long time but I couldn't put my finger on why. Thanks!