I thought it was about time I did something on Marion Weinstein and her work. Marion was a Witch, of a very un-trendy, non-self-mystifying kind, who gave me a great deal through her very unique but very populist work. She died in 2009 and I do miss her. I think her work deserves to live on, because it was so very beneficial and helpful to all kinds of people.
I didn’t agree with everything Marion taught. Her sense of Witchcraft history was as wildly off as so much of her generation’s was. Her views on Satanism were I think not just wrong, but irresponsible in view of the “satanic panics” of the 1980s and 90s. But there is so much that I learned from her, and that I love her for.
Margot Adler said of her after her death:
“Her odd and somewhat squeaky voice, as well as the way she presented herself, made many people think she was simple and not smart. But Positive Magic is beautifully written and quite brilliant. She was always much deeper and more savvy than many in the world gave her credit for…”
I would completely agree, and I’ll always like her for being a funny, touching antidote to the privilege, mystification and constipation of so much occultism.
She was known for two books mainly: “Positive Magic” (her occult self help guide), and “Earth Magic” (her personal book of shadows). She seemed to find her own way through the field and come up with uniquely expressed insights. She was a “hedgewitch” before there were really any in print, just without the pseudo-rural trappings, and I loved that she entirely embraced being an “urban witch”. Unusually for her time, she didn’t allow her Paganism to slide into a lazy, mystical sexism either. No “first among equals”, or similar sexual ideologies here. She was clear on equality – her ideas were too lucid and consistent not to be.
Another thing she was clear on was her ethics, and she could tell you why. If it was just a question of “negative magic bad – positive magic good“, it would have been ethical superstition and rote assertions. But she could point out the psychological overcompensation, and the magical inferiority complexes behind reliance on causing harm and manipulation through magic. You need to think about these things and come to your own conclusions, without getting into that dumb “good and evil” thing in your imagination, but her case was consistent and well thought out. She couldn’t do the thinking or fleshing out for you, but she could show you the bare bones she had identified herself.
Magic for her was about transformation, and about the self, but it was also, for her as a Witch, about service without the self-sacrifice a lot of us were taught to associate with that word. Her scheme was simplicity itself: we use two worlds, the “world of form” and “the invisible world”, and we work between them to bring about magic. She understood, ahead of chaos magic, that our esoteric complications are contingent and ultimately arbitrary.
Her guide to tarot was spot on; that you use the pictures of the tarot as spring boards to following your intuition, and that this finally is the only way to really read tarot. That secret is too simple to put in a book on tarot, because it will not sell, and it will turn you into a tarot reader rather than a tarot expert. If you look across her two main books, you can find similarly brief and practical guides to contacting spirits, working spells, and working with parallel aspects of self in different worlds and different times. She understood a lot about being and time, enough to know that you didn’t have to make it sound difficult to communicate something real, and profound.
The main magical technique she wrote about was what she called “words of power”, which look a lot like affirmations, except that they trace being back to source as part of it. She taught about working with essence and with form, and what the limitations were. She taught, through guided practice, what the intelligence of energy was like.
There was no mumbo jumbo in Marion’s world; just consciousness and clear intention. And she taught the clear, light power of intention too.
As she used to say: everyone’s shadow is different. So you wouldn’t end up the same as her, and I certainly didn’t. We’re not meant to, but I do really appreciate her. If she’d put a big scary face on her work, or a stuffy bookish one, or a glamorous, mysterious one, we’d probably say she was a genius and a great community elder. But she just put the face of a zany, stand up comic on it, with frizzy hair and a funny voice, some jokes to crack, and oh here’s all the important stuff I know about magic, which I use in my life all the time, and so can you.
Bright, clear, funny and enquiring – people could still learn a lot from her.