In the End as in the Beginning: Traditional Magick Is Not for All

Andrew D. Chumbley
Andrew D. Chumbley

It is a simple fact that not all people are Initiates. Magick is not for all. Admittedly, in a theoretical sense, Magick could be used by everyone, and some might argue that all people use it if only in an unconscious manner. This is no more than theoretical speculation aimed at a rosy picture of the world in which everyone is equal. The plain truth is that Magick is practised only by the few, even amongst occultists.

Such assertions might well lead to the conclusion that I am advocating a form of Spiritual Elitism and perhaps this is so. It is not so much that I am advocating it, but merely stating the facts which so many modern “occultists” attempt to ignore or whitewash over with their New Age egalitarian morals.

Beyond the artificial hierarchical structures of temporal society and the spiritual hierarchies of many occult factions there is a small body of True Initiates; not necessarily the Secret Chiefs or Hidden Masters but people who have become the Magick which they practise. It is not for me to say whether or not such “True Initiates” are members of some hidden sodality, but it is perhaps a useful part of magical practice for us to believe ‘as if they were, for such a belief gives an aggregate cohesion between the Adepts of every Path and so, in turn, may lead us to a convergent source for all Magick.

Apart from the egalitarian fallacy of the New Age, there is also a good deal of nonsense regarding the term “traditional”. The whole spectrum of occult paths is beset with “genuine traditional teachers” and the like. Such over-sincerity smacks of simple falsehood, but it is nonetheless useful in obscuring the Real Traditions from the exploitation of the gullible masses. However, what are these “Real Traditions”?

In discussing the “Real Traditions”, I can only speak from personal experience, which is as valid or as invalid as that of the next charlatan. But as far as I am concerned, I would consider myself to practice the Traditional Sorcery of the Witch’s Sabbat. Some may think that such a claim is too outlandish or obscure to prove or disprove.

The term “Traditional” is normally confined to some sense of historical continuity with a specific emphasis upon an oral or theophanic teaching which is passed on from person to person over successive generations. This is a useful definition when applied to the native practices of Magick within primitive societies where, for instance, each generation has its spiritual guide or Shaman. But when applied to Traditional European Witchcraft it has numerous problems in attaining credible authenticity.

There have been many claims by modern witches to “Traditional” or “Hereditary” authenticity, but there is no definitive or concrete evidence to build an acceptable historical picture of the traditional Witch Cult — or so most historians say.

The problem is that we cannot penetrate the historical veneer of the Inquisition and the Malleus Maleficarum; our viewpoint is constantly clouded by the Christo-mythologized history of the world. But we cannot simply discard the possibility of the Witch-Cult’s traditional continuity because it is nigh impossible to prove.

To my mind there is enough evidence for us to believe “as if the Witch-Cult has always existed”. Firstly, there is a continuous stream of magical symbolism throughout European history, obviously varying from region to region and from period to period but nonetheless possessing a degree of consistency for us to believe in the existence of a magical tradition. Secondly, this may be backed up by the archaeological evidence for the continuous use of magical charms for many hundreds of years e.g., witch bottles, wax or clay effigies, Witch’s Ladders of knots, hex marks on buildings etc. This at least seems to infer the existence of a magico-ritualistic tradition of beliefs at a ‘folk’ level if not at the level of an organized cult.

None can deny that the idea of an ancient and secret cult surviving throughout the millennia is a fascination and is something in which we would like to believe; we may dismiss it as another symptom of the modern penchant for conspiratorial theories or perhaps see it as an intuitive hunch.

Regardless, many believe “as if it were the Truth”. I would go further and suggest that it is this very “as if belief which has existed for millennia; do not most societies possess their devils, sorcerers etc., and it is this very belief in such things which has reified itself in the reality of Witchcraft Today”. Whether or not the Cult has always existed is perhaps immaterial. Yet the belief in its antiquity is an integral and necessary facet of our present magick.

I have encountered Witchcraft practices of both a traditional and a hereditary nature but cannot conclusively prove this using acceptable historical evidence, and so my experience is only strictly valid within the field of my own life and within the lives of those who might trust my word.

So for the sake of giving some authenticity to my own claims of Traditional Witchcraft I must offer an alternative definition of “Tradition”. Without doubt, there is historical evidence for continuous magical folk beliefs throughout European History, and there is an “as if belief in the existence of Witches and Sorcerers” etc., but for myself, the tradition of the Witch-Cult is not simply one of oral, theophanic, “apostolic” or hereditary succession.

It is rather an atavistic tradition — it is not necessarily a continuous lineage of Initiates but more a periodic and metempsychotic resurgence of Witch-Blood.

It possesses a degree of historical continuity in that its Teachings are more or less consistent in their principles from Practitioner to Practitioner, but it is not wholly dependent upon visible or temporal means of perpetuation.

I would assert that the Secret Tradition of Sorcery exists as both a Reality and as a Belief Its Reality is in the fact that in every century certain men and women are born with an innate knowledge and passion for the Arte Magical, far outreaching that of their contemporaries.

Its belief lies in the minds of everyone; in the myths of clandestine sabbats and ancient primeval cults; in the collective fantasies of Gods, Demi-Gods and devils. The Belief held in the minds of the Many has its realization in the Flesh of the Few.

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