Tag Archives: books

On Doing the Work

Training is good, yes.

Books are good, yes.

But you can be trained in formal training for twenty years and never “get it”, and you can go out your back door with no training or knowledge at all and just “get it”. There is no guaranties, and none of it is where you actually get experience and wisdom. You get those from doing it.

If I went through the best medical school in the world, I wouldn’t be able to go straight in and be able to do everything day one. As an example, I want into the emergency room for something. The doctor was concerned about something else because he hadn’t ever seen it, but the nurse told him, no, that isn’t normal, but it’s not abnormal, and convince him not to worry about it. He had far more formal training than she did, but she had worked in the ER for many years and seen much more than he had. He had more knowledge, but she had more experience. In general, nurses see more and experience more because they handle most things that don’t require the expertise the doctor has because of training, so have more wisdom to see things as they really are and know what to do in a lot more circumstances.

I read a quote in a book last night, Witches, Midwives, and Nurse: A History of Women Healers. “If a woman dare to cure without having studies she is a witch and must die.” Note the emphasis on studying (indicating training, not reading, in this context). While the restriction of women in medical schools and the prevalence of women over men in folk practice was an issue at the time, it was more about credentials vs no credentials than about gender. The doctors felt only they should be able to heal because they were the ones with training, who had put in the time and effort to be trained, and could prove they were training. Not really different from today when the main argument against alternative medicine in the US is not about if it works or not, but about lack of a medical degree.

Back to the craft, same thing.

Training is good, and is required in some *traditions* to practice that *tradition*, for very good reasons, but is not required to practice the craft, and doesn’t guaranty success in it, any more than reading books do. It’s the experience that builds wisdom, and if you don’t do anything until you have learned sufficiently to make no mistakes and always be good at it, you’ll never reach that.

Read what you can, sure.

Get the formal, or informal, training if you can, sure.

But are real teachers are the spirits, our experiences, and our own self, seen through a mirror darkly.

~Muninn’s Kiss


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Posted by on March 1, 2014 in muninnskiss


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Thirteen Points of Advice for Those Starting on the Path

The following are thirteen points of advice and guidance I’d give to anyone starting out of the path.  They aren’t exclusive, there are other things to know.  And they aren’t original, they are drawn from many sources.  And they are from my point of view, so should not be taken as gospel.  I hope they help some who read them.  Before getting into them, four books I’d recommend before most others, and I have a very long recommended reading list, are the following:

And that being said, here are the thirteen points of advice that are my intention if sharing this:

  1. Mutual respect is essential. Respect the spirits, and expect respect in return. If you don’t receive it, they’re out, burnt, or cut off.
  2. All things have a spirit, and that spirit can be worked with and learned from. Some work with them as servants, or worship them and become servants. I prefer to work with them as partners. There is an authority in knowing you are equal with all things.
  3. People (and spirits) see what they expect to see. Open your eyes, then open them again. Observe. Perceive. Understand.
  4. What conceals also reveals. Look beneath the surface, both in of what your senses (physical or otherwise) tell you and what teachings, lore, and myth tell you. What they hide is as important as what they say.
  5. Learn to ask the right questions. Asking the wrong question will send you in the wrong direction. There are no bad questions, but often looking at the question in the right way opens doors. And always ask the next question, don’t let the answer be the end of the question.
  6. When all else fails, cheat. Don’t assume that the traditional way to do something, the way everyone does it, or the way you’ve always done it is the only approach. If it doesn’t work, do something else.
  7. Divide and conquer. If something is baffling or seems to be concealing something you can’t quite grasp or see, break it down, look at each part of it separately, determine where something is missing, concealed, or not working, and focus there.
  8. Only you are responsible for your actions and words, no one else, and you aren’t responsible for anyone else’s. Do what is necessary, but accept the responsibility for it. Own what you say and what you do, regardless of the consequences or what you think of them later. Don’t pass blame, and don’t take it on.
  9. Learn from all things. All beings, objects, persons, spirits, circumstances, lore, teachings, regardless of the source or pain or issues, contain beauty, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, and can be learned from, if you ask the right questions, look beneath the surface, and separate what has value from what doesn’t. There’s a saying in Hawai’i that not all knowledge is found in one shed.
  10. Be willing to consider any idea, no matter how different from your own. Examine it, understand it, but don’t just accept it in you process. Hold on firmly to what you know, and only change it if there is good reason to do so.
  11. Everybody lies, misrepresents, and hides things. This goes for spirits as well as living humans, and all things. Never assume you are being told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We all speak through our filters, understand based on our experiences, hide what we don’t want seen, and mislead when it will gain us something. Make no assumptions about the truth of, completeness of, or accuracy of anything you are told. This goes for what you tell yourself as well. Look deeper, examine. Observe. Perceive. Understand.
  12. What is yours, you need to hold, protect, defend. As Cochrane said, “What I have–I hold!” You are guardian and keeper of what is yours. Find what that is, and keep it against the storm.
  13. What you put in, you get out. As we say in computers, garbage in, garbage out. Only you control what you get from the path. No effort, no result. No danger, no gain. Victor Anderson said anything worth doing is dangerous, and Cochrane said take all you are given, give all of yourself. Huna teaches that where your attention goes, the mana goes, and Taoist thought teaches similar, where the mind goes, the chi follows. Where you focus, that’s where your energy is, what you think about and contemplate, that is where you will learn. It’s all about you. You hold the reins. Make the most of it.


Hope these are helpful for some.


~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on November 23, 2013 in muninnskiss


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The Importance of Horror

This time of year, with Halloween approaching, there are a lot more horror films watched, more horror elements in television shows, and more horror books read than any other part of the year. There is a marked focus in this direction, both in those pursuing watching and reading, and in those speaking against the genre. Many of these elements spill into daily life, in costumes worn to work, parties, bars, and anywhere else people can get away with it by using the season as an excuse.

Supernatural horror the only mainstream place where the elements that are often a part of more occult and esoteric interest appear. The very fact the genre (both in film and in literature, and also in art of many other forms) exists is interesting in itself.

The reason for the absence elsewhere is that people don’t want to consider the monstrous and strange, preferring to pretend everything is safe and normal and predictable. So it’s pushed to the edges. On the edges, we don’t have to look at it. We can pretend it’s not there and go about life feeling safe.

But the presence of the supernatural horror genre in all mediums means that while it’s pushed the edges, it’s not pushed out completely. People don’t want to confront it in a “normal” context, but they also can’t completely ignore or forget it either. The genre persists because there is always a part of us that knows that the “normal” by itself is not the whole story, that there would be a lacking if the Other is completely gone.

So people seek out the monstrous and strange and dangerous on occasion, as a reminder not to forget, then return to their “normal” world, content that the stuff they push to the edges is still at the edges, so not hidden closer and waiting.

This is the place not just of the genre, but of the edges themselves. Edges and boundaries define what is part and what is not, what is Self and what is Other, what is society and what is savage, what is cultivated and what is Wasteland or Wilderness. By dividing, they define. There is no boundary or edge if there isn’t something beyond it. There is no Self without Other. There is no civilized without the Monster. If what we don’t like or are afraid of isn’t at the edge, or across the boundary, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it means it has no place to be but here, where I am. If there is no monster out there, the monster is here, or the monster is me.

The separation of worlds, the Edge and the Veil, is a separation of perception, not a gap or abyss between worlds. Our world, our Dreaming, must be safe to us, so we push what isn’t safe to the edge, make it Other, make it the otherworld. And those that live in the otherworld, at the edges by our perception, push what isn’t safe to them to the edge, to their Other, making it the otherworld for them, our world. All things not safe for us, or that we don’t want, is there. All things not safe for them, or that they don’t want, is here. Two worlds mutually populating each other with their monsters, monsters who populate their world with monsters.

But those who walk between are monsters to both worlds, Other to all Selfs. Because they can be either, so are monsters that appear as normal, no matter which world they walk. And appearing normal in both, they also see both as normal, the accept the monstrous and strange as every day, as part of what makes up the whole. They have no edges, no borders, no law, no limits.

Because edges imply two sides, boundaries and borders are between two things. Laws define what can happen and cannot, or, what can happen without being pushed to the edges. Limits define what is possible, but if you approach a limit long enough, you can’t perceive where you are from where it is, and in effect reach it. And once you realize the limit, what stops you from passing it?

~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in muninnskiss


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The Spider’s Song: I Made an Offering of Wind…

I made an offering of wind upon the altar of dust.  ~Grimr

In the beginning was a song.  The song.  The only song there ever was, and ever will be.  It was a love song, and a song of loneliness.  It was a song of joy and sorrow, of love and loss, of peace and war, of life and death.  It was the song of creation, the song of all things.  It was the spider’s song.

It began with one note, ringing out through the outer darkness, like a single bell rang in a place of silence, or a the first harp string plucked.  It was a pure note, perfect, the only note that could pierce that silence, the silence of the outer dark.  It was the voice of the Nagara, the single note that was all, the love song of the Nagara to the Nagara, deep calling out to deep.  And it hung there in the darkness like a spark of light, like a seed, like a single harp string, or a single thread.  It was the first thread of the web, a single thread in the abyss of the outer darkness, a note ringing for none to hear.

And it echoed.  That single note reflected back on itself, reflecting off that which is not, the dark curve of the darkness.  It echoed back and in doing so, it changed, not the same as it was going out.  It rang in harmony with itself, a perfect harmonic, a perfect fifth.  The danced, round and round, catalyst and nexus, nexus and catalyst.  And so, one note became two, one thread became two, both vibrating in the darkness of the abyss, in the outer darkness, the first two threads of the web.  Two notes, hearing each other, responding to each other, first in dissonance, then in consonance, the dance of the twins.

From their play a third note arose.  It vibrated between them, both notes moving the third, the perfect third, a chord in the silence of the dark.  Three notes ringing out, moving, shifting.  A perfect chord.  Three mothers, three weavers each moving each other.  Three threads hanging in the abyss, the first three threads of the web.

But the song wasn’t finished.  The chord grew and the perfect seventh came forth, four notes, four threads, stretching out into the abyss in four directions, four winds.  And still the song grew, for where there’s a first, a third, a fifth, a seventh, there, too, there’s a second, a fourth, and a sixth.  Seven notes ringing out through the darkness, and a melody formed, the vibrations of the web.  Seven builders, seven keepers, seven guardians.

Breath.  What is breath?  Breath is life, for even many one celled life take in oxygen and need it to live.  Breath is wind, for it is the movement of gas, in or out.  There is no breath in a vacuum.

Breath.  What is breath?  Breath is the most basic of sounds.  From it comes the vowel sounds in all oral languages, the sounds made without obstruction, without build up.  Sound passing through only changed in sound by the narrowness or movement of the side it passes between.  It is outward moving air, unblocked, unfettered, unbound, loosed.

Breath, vowels, are the first notes of music, pure sound, untempered.  They are the notes of the sound of the music, of a song, the song, the first song.  They are the beginning.

Breath bound, tied, constrained, blocked, fettered, becomes consonants.  As the vowels are given form, as the tent pole is raised, the bound vowels becomes first Three Mothers, then Seven Doubles, then Twelve Singles.  22 consonants, 22 letter.  Two Dancers, Three Weavers, Seven Builders, twelve in all, twelve notes, twelve threads, Twelve Watchers.

And consonants gather around vowels, the bound around the loosed, and words form.  Words, symbols of ideas.  And the complexity grows, the song grows.  Three Mothers, Seven Doubles, Twelve Singles, 22 consonants, 29 sounds, become 231 Gates, each gate a pair of consonants, the first and the fifth.  And the 231 Gates are joined by others, 20 consonants added to the beginning, to the middle, to the end, 13,860 roots if none repeat.  And roots combine to be words, and words combine to form sentences, and sentences combine to form paragraphs, and paragraphs combine to form chapters, and chapters combine to form books, and books combine to form sets and series, and sets and series combine to form shelves, and shelves combine to form racks, and racks combine to form rows, and rows combine to form stacks, and stacks combine to form floors, that the whole world is a library, the 10,000 things.

Every note holds power.  Every breath holds power.  Every vowel holds power.  Every sound holds power.  Every consonant holds power.  Every word holds power, every sentence, every paragraph.  And the longer they exist, the more they are used, the more their power grows.

Stand in a used bookstore or library.  Look at all those books.  How many are there?  How many words do they contain? How many letters do those words contain?  Each sound is a note in the song, the song of creation.  Each sound is a vibration in the web that is all, stretched across the face of the deep, the abyss, the outer darkness.  How much power is in those pages?  What secrets?  What notes?

Now think of the world.  How many books are in the world?  Right now.  And how many words in each one?

Now think of all time.  How many books have there been?  How many will there be?  And how many words in each one?

Now realize that books are just the ideas, the thoughts, the words that have been written down.  They are written language.  They have meaning because of the oral language that spawned them, the consonants with bound flow, the vowels with looses flow.  The power is in that oral language, the written is only that small piece that was written down, loosed power bound into a page.  How many words are spoken that are never recorded?  Each is a note in the song, the song of creation, the spider’s song.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.  And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.” ~Genesis 1:1-3 JPS 1917 Edition of the Hebrew Bible in English

“darkness was upon the face of the deep” – וּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם – v choshek ‘al-peniy tehowm

וּ – v – and

וְחֹשֶׁךְ – choshek – darkness, obscurity, secret place

עַל-פְּנֵי – ‘al-peniy – the face, the presence, the person, the surface of, that which is in front of, before, toward

תְהוֹם – tehowm – deep, depths, deep places, abyss, sea, ocean, abyss, grave

“spirit of God” – וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים – Ruwach ‘elohiym – Ruach Elohim

רוּחַ – Ruwach, Ruach – breath, wind, air, gas, spirit, vivacity, vigour, courage, temper, anger, desire, sorrow, will, energy of life

אֱלֹהִים – ‘elohiym, Elohim – rulers, judges, divine ones, angels, gods, god, goddess, godlike one, G-d

“hovered over the face of the waters” – מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם – mrachaphit ‘al-peniy mayim

מְ – m – from

רַחֶפֶת – rachaphit – to grow soft, relax, to hover

עַל-פְּנֵי – ‘al-peniy – the face, the presense, the person, the surface of, that which is in front of, before, toward

הַמָּיִם – mayim – water, waters, urine, springs, fountains, flood

So we could read is as:

“and the secret place was upon the surface of the ocean, and the breath of the rulers settled upon the surface of the water.”


“and that which hides the face of the abyss, the wind of the gods, from the face of the water.”


“and darkness was the presence of the grave, the temper of the gods toward the flood.”

But, a bit of a tangent.

Ruach is breath, but also wind and life.  Ruach is also, in Kabbalah, part of the soul.  In this way, it is the emotions, will, and energy of life.

The Breath.  The Soul.  The Wind.  Life.  Ruach, hovering above the waters of the abyss, in the darkness, is the notes of the song, which are also the threads of the web.

In the beginning was a song.
The song.
The only song there ever was, and ever will be.
It was a love song, and a song of loneliness.
It was a song of joy and sorrow, of love and loss, of peace and war, of life and death.
It was the song of creation, the song of all things.
It was the spider’s song.

I made an offering of wind upon the altar of dust.

~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in muninnskiss


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All knowledge is not taught in one shed: My thoughts on books, oral teaching, and experience

I’m a firm believer that there is truth and things to learn in everything, even crap. And by crap, I mean many “occult” books that which are being published lately. And my “occult” (verses, say, occult), I mean things that claim to be secret or new but are just rewording of a thousand books mass produced before them. Even in the shallowest, fluffiest, most full of plagiarism and dribble book, there is still truth and still things to learn, because even the most unoriginal and unimaginative person in the world is still led by the Muses once in a while, and will hit on truth and “secrets” and things worth learning unintentionally and often unaware. I would of course rather read an author for whom that is the norm than the exception, but no book is without a nugget of truth for those that have eyes to see and ears to hear. Though, that doesn’t mean it’s often worth the time to read the dribble to find it.

Point being, learning from a book, or a teacher, or the spirits, or anything, relies on the one learning more than anything. You can’t teach a rock to fly, you can just throw it and see if it can avoid hitting the ground. The author may only produce dribble, but the right reader could find the secrets of the universe in the book (to quote Men in Black, “I promised you the secrets of the universe, nothing more.”). An author could be inspired and breathe the most profound truths into every sentence and the wrong reader might throw it away as nonsense.

Of course, on the other hand, it was fairly recent that the verb that is now our English “to learn” became the action of the student. Even into the early 19th century, the usage was “He learned me to do it”, not “I learned it from him.” A teacher, or author, imparts truth to the student, or reader, breathing that truth into them. The teacher, or author, does the action, the student, or reader, only receives. Receiving that truth is passive, teaching or writing it is active. But, to passively receive something, you must be open to it. Holding a fist in the air does not allow someone to give you a cup of water, but holding an open hand out in the air does.

This is what I mean above. When I read, I read in a way that’s open to receive whatever truth was breathed into it, intentionally and consciously or unintentionally and unconsciously. I experience the truth in the book. Same thing when I go out into the world. When I stand on the top of a mountain 10,000 feet above sea level with the wind whipping through my hair, the solid rock under my feet, I’m open to receive what the spirits of that place want to teach me. When I draw a circle, call to the spirits I work with and invite them, and perform a rite, I’m open to what the spirits and the rite has to teach me. Reading a book really isn’t different from learning from experience, it’s just a different medium.

The key is to be open to it, and not make it your only source of truth. There’s a saying in Hawai’ian, “a’ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka ha lau ho’okahi”, basically “all knowledge is not taught in one shed.” This stems from a period when spiritual teachers in Hawai’i would teach in the three sided sheds that were common, to anyone who came to them. The point being, each teacher teaches differently, and teaches different things. The same is true here. There are things best learned from a book, but things you can never learn from a book. There are things best taught orally, teacher to student, and things that can never be passed through oral language. There are things best taught only by experience, and things you can’t learn from experience alone. The moment you limit yourself to one source of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is the moment you limit your knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

A’ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka ha lau ho’okahi.

~ Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in muninnskiss


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Kickstarter Campaign a No-Go but Book Still in the Works

Okay, I think I timed my kickstarter campaign for my book poorly. The campaign ends tomorrow, but with work changes, I haven’t had any time to promote it or give updates, and I haven’t received a single pledge. At this point, any pledges won’t be enough, so no one will be charged anything and no money will come to me, even if people pledge in the next day. So if you were thinking about it, don’t worry about it. I’ll either find a cheaper or non-self funded method of publishing or it will be released later. I’m still going to try to complete it before summer, but publication will probably be further out. This probably just means it wasn’t time for the book yet, which I’m fine with. I’ll keep everyone updated as I progress and as I find other options if there’s a better way to do it. Any advise is appreciated. You can still read the campaign, but please don’t pledge on it at this point, as it won’t help and will just take your time that would be better used elsewhere.

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in muninnskiss


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Discs, Coins, and Pentacles: A Look at Money and Esoteric Traditions

There’s an interesting dance among the the modern esoteric, occult, and pagan communities when it comes to money that is a bit contradictory. On one hand, many in the communities believe a practitioner should never charge for their services, and a teacher should never charge their students. On the other hand, many in the community are adamant that any unauthorised reproduction of books or other material of a magic, pagan, or occult nature is the worst sin ever, that an author deserves money for every copy of their book. Often, these authors that should get money for their books are also teachers who shouldn’t charge to teach, or practitioners who shouldn’t charge for their services. But this seems a bit schizophrenia  Why are written teachings supposed to be paid for but charging for oral teachings anathema? Why are writings okay to charge for, but workings not? Is writing a profession but teaching or workings hobbies? I’d like to consider these things a bit.

In thinking about money, the suits of the Tarot comes to mind. While most modern decks contain wands, swords, cups, and pentacles, older decks commonly had rods or staves instead of wands and discs of coins instead of pentacles. The modern names tie heavily to ceremonial magic, of course. A pentacle for protection, a wand for directing energy and power, a sword for the masculine, a cup for the feminine. The sword is often tied to Excalibur, and cup with the Graal. Ceremonial magic then ties them to elements and understands them based on ceremonial usage of the tools, and on the understanding of the corresponding element. The pentacle becomes earth, the cup water, and the sword and wand becomes fire and air, though which is which can vary. Talking in generalities of course, as each tradition varies. But the Tarot are usually seen through these eyes.

Other modern readers use Jung’s ideas and work with them as archetypes psychological constructs. Pentacles become material concerns, employment or financial. Cups become emotion and romance. Wands become intellectual and thought. Swords become action and will.

But it must be remembered that the Tarot didn’t appear in Europe in a ceremonial magic context, and psychology and archetype theory developed later.

To understand the suits, a good place to look is the Three Estates of the Middle Ages, those who pray, those who fight, and those who labour. Basically, clergy, nobles, and peasants. But as the Middle Ages drew to a close, classes changed. The nobles drew further and further away from fighting, and the bourgeoisie developed. The Tarot was more a court and merchant thing than a peasant thing, and appeared in the days of bourgeoisie, so this seems a likely context to understand the it.

Looking at the suits, we can see some clear connections. A rod is probably a sceptre, the symbol of rulership, so the wands, the staves and rods, become those who rule, symbolising the governmental influence on life. A cup is the sacramental chalice, the symbol of the Church, so cups become those who pray, symbolising the spiritual and religious influence on life. A sword in the symbol of the military, those who fight, symbolising the influence of war and conflict on life. And a coin is the symbol of merchants, those who buy and sell, the middle class, the bourgeoisie, symbolising the influence of money and goods on life.

Interestingly, during that period, Mercury is used to designate trade and merchants and goods and money. Mercury/Hermes is the crosser between places, just as merchants cross between cities, between nations and kingdoms. But Mercury is never associated with earth, as Pentacles are now. Both god and planet is air, and the metal mercury. The goddess referenced for commerce was Minerva (Athena of the Greeks).

Mars was of course the god associated with fighting and wars. He is fire to most modern ideas, but he is iron, and while fire shapes iron, iron itself is a thing of earth. Iron comes from earth, and when used as a weapon, sends people back to the earth. War brings fallow fields, it’s impact is on the earth itself.

Modern interpretation of cups as romance would put Venus (Aphrodite) and Cupid (Eros) there, but the cups as the Church brings a more chaste perspective. The classical image isn’t that of Aphrodite and Eros bringing love and sex, but of the Vestal Virgins changed to male priests with vows. The chalice of the Church isn’t a chalice of water but one in which wine becomes blood. Alcohol and blood are both more often linked to fire than water, but by their red colour (red wine is used in sacrament), and by their heat. The chalice of blood easily can be seen as the Vestial fires and the fires of Hestia.

Last we have wands, rods, staves, sceptres. We have secular authority which is rulership and royalty, government and kingship. This becomes Zeus quit easily, king of the gods. And Zeus’ sceptre is a bolt of lightning, and Zeus is a storm god, and the very storm, the bringer of rain. This links wands nicely with water.

But, back to money and esoteric, occult, and pagan services. As far as I can tell, the idea that a magic practitioner’s magic will only work if they don’t take money for it is a very new concept, maybe originating in the Golden Dawn proviso against the use of magic to bring material wealth, as this is often associated with the pleasures of the earth, and the Golden Dawn, much like the gnostics, focuses on rising out of the physical onto the spiritual. Most records, myths, legends, and folktales concerning magic users, however, seem to describe it being a profession, their main source of income or provision, their main contribution to their communities. As far as teaching goes, apprenticeships to magic workers seems to have worked the same as other apprenticeships, in what I’ve read. The parents of the prospective apprenticeship bought the apprenticeship, paying the master. Definitely money for teaching.

In societies without currency, of course, payment was in goods or services, but this was true for any profession. If there’s no physical money, goods and services are the only possible payment, and goods are the only wealth, as services can’t be stored. Currency developed as a means to set rates and values of diverse things. The old metaphor, comparing apples and oranges is literal if you are trading them. How many apples is orange worth? How many oranges is an apple worth? You can barter, work out a deal, but what if you need 100 apples and live half a day’s travel from where you will trade your oranges for the apples? How many oranges do you need to bring? Currency solves this, as it’s easier to bring enough coins. Bartering was still the norm, but you bartered to sell what you could bring, then battered to buy what you needed. You didn’t need to worry about exchanging between the types of goods. But the real reason for currency is governmental and religious. Taxes and offerings are easier in currency. As a temple or church or government gets large, what are they going to do with the large amount of grain or animals or whatever? Currency makes this easier, both for storing and for accounting.

Exchange of goods and services could work in our society, if those using the services of the magic user gave toward a need in response. “I’ll pay your rent in exchange for delivering our baby.” “In exchange for that charm for love, I’ll bring groceries and come over and cook you dinner.” Same for teaching, it’s entirely possible to exchange. “I’ll mow your lawn every week if you’ll teach me every week.” “I’ll update your website in exchange for being taught.” “I’ll buy you dinner once a week and you can teach me while we eat.”

In societies that didn’t have a concept of trade, all things were held in common by definition, regardless of what role you served. In this case, the magic user tended to be in a role like a medicine man, or a shaman, or a priest, sometimes a governmental or military type leader as well. Basically the village doctor and preacher in one, or those plus the chief or warband leader. They provided a need, and the village provided for their needs. If the magic worker or teacher was completely taken care of by the pagan or occult community, there would be much less need to charge for services. The community would care for their physical needs, and they would care for the community’s religious, spiritual, magical, and healing needs. They would teach others’ their skills as the need grows and to carry on the service. The students wouldn’t pay per se, the training would be part of the service in exchange for being provided for.

So there are options going back to older ideas, but why should the magic user or teacher function differently than the rest of the community? Do those in the same community that have “mundane” jobs, the programmers, the system administrators, the plumbers, the mechanics, the school teachers, the college professors, the nurses, the doctors, the lawyers, the architects, the engineers, the construction workers, the editors, the writers, and all the other professions, do all these work only for goods and services, or do they work for free, with the needs outside their profession met by the community?

Not to say it’s wrong for magic users or teachers to serve for free if they choose, but why is it okay to require them to, while not requiring it of other professions? It’s something to think about.

Back to the original comparison, what about writing? There’s a strong reaction in the community against pirating, though a lot of it goes on. The statement made, which is legitimate, is that when a book is pirated, and distributed, the author gets no money for these, and that a writer can’t survive without the income from their books, that they should be paid for their work.

Three points seem to be ignored.

The first is that resold copies at high prices on the Internet of out of print books is considered horrible, while buying them in used bookstores are trumpeted. However, neither of these, nor loaning or giving copies legally bought, give anything to author. The author only makes money from the initial sell. If one copy is sold, then passed around to a thousand people, the author makes the same thing as if one copy is bought, scanned, then passed out on the Internet to a thousand people. The first is legal and not criticized  and the second is illegal, piracy, and copyright infringement  Yet both hurt the author just as much. Not to say the second is good and should be done, but the finances of the author is obviously not relevant to what is right or wrong or good or bad.

Second, the initial question of this article, if piracy is wrong because the author deserves pay for her work, why doesn’t she deserve pay for magical work or teacher-student training? Why is the same information portrayed in a book worth money, but not presented orally or privately? Esoteric, occult, and pagan traditions tend to talk a lot about oral tradition being better than writing, yet at the same time belie this by saying you should get paid for your writing but not your oral teaching.

Third, what is the purpose of publishing esoteric or occult books? Is it to provide the material to larger audiences than you can in person? Is it to cast it out into the world so a few that are meant to have it will find it? Is it for the purpose of funding your magic work and teaching? Is it to make as much money as you can?

Piracy helps the first two but hurts the second two. Same with selling copies used, loaning them out, or passing them on. So if either of the first two are your main goal, piracy should be seen as a good thing to the author, as it widens distribution beyond what traditional sales can do.

If your main goal is funding your magic work and teaching, how is that different from charging for those services? It’s not as direct, true, but presumably your book is consistant with your teaching and informed by your practice. How can it be seen as a separate entity from either?

And if your main purpose is purely bringing in money, it’s hard not to fall into the trap of mass production and following the latest trend. This would of course diminish quality, and doesn’t seem to be something anyone serious in the esoteric or occult community would laud and encourage.

Ultimately, the question becomes, do you reject the physical world and wealth and money with it, or do you consider the physical, along with money and wealth, to be equal to the spiritual? If the first, it seems consistent to not charge for magic work or teaching, but also to provide books and writing for free, not charging for these either. This would make sense for gnostic oriented traditions, like many ceremonial traditions, mystery schools, and mystery-based witchcraft traditions. But for those that consider themselves earth-based religions or traditions that don’t reject the physical, charging for magic work or teaching doesn’t seem like something to fight or criticize any more than charging for books.

~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in muninnskiss


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