It’s a chilly day and grey, and we are seemingly in the pall of Autumn now, though only a day or two ago it seemed warm and sunny enough for mid September. Today though, I have closed all the windows and doors, and I am in cocooning mode. We are also post-flu-shots, in that immediate ghost virus phase, like we’re stumbling round a film where we play two people who actually have colds. It’s oddly pleasant, in a drunkenly Winter welcoming sort of way. The tiny ash sapling in the garden has gone all golden, and the amaryllis is foolishly thinking it is Christmas and trying to bloom.
I got a reminder this week of the Pagan and occult communities, and why I love both books and the internet. Some people still assume that if you are Pagan, or an occultist, or witch, that you will be part of a world of groups and orders and covens. They still think that is “the real thing”. They really haven’t caught up with how things are nowadays. That might apply more to the UK than to places like the USA where Paganism has been more community and festival oriented for almost 50 years. Here Paganism has always seemed to be more rooted in the occult and in recognized orders and traditions, something which I think only started to change significantly in the 90s or 00s. You had to find occult bookshops, specialist magazines, find out about rare conferences or symposia, buy fanzines and books and write off to people.
And it’s quite true that we owe a debt to the people who wrote the books, and got together to do things, but since the advent of the internet the majority of unrepresented and unacknowledged people who bought the books and found inspiration in the romance of occultism and Paganism have found their own representation. The independents have come into their own. It started in the 80s really, when things like DIY witchcraft really started to take off. Actually, way before then with the likes of Israel Regardie publishing detailed “how to” books, and before him Aleister Crowley with his own works spilling the beans. It was all part of the “new age” (before the commercial version), the “Age of Aquarius”, the dissemination of “ancient wisdom” to a new world, freed from the constraints of secrecy and hiding.
There’s no question really that both the publishing of magical material, and the democratization of DIY participation catalysed by the internet are both consistent with that “Aquarian” ideal, but the resistance seemed to be considerable, in the resentment and contempt expressed by elements of the “old world”. But times have changed, we’ve moved on, and the orders and covens and traditions can’t speak for people at large, and can’t define who is or isn’t part of “it” anymore. The idea that a bounded group can have the obvious authority to define a spirituality better than an individual now seems … not so obvious at all. Defining validity through which group you might be seen to belong to is an idea that is just falling apart. In that sense, I feel we do live in a more Satanic time.
And about time too. The figure who was the greatest single inspiration to me was the artist-magician Austin Osman Spare, a truly wonderful man with a superb, unique vision. He belonged to no group for any amount of time. He shunned both the art world and the occult world. He was a genius in both areas. Things like Chaos Magic claimed descent from his ideal, but they never caught his spirit, his poetry, his unique flight to the imaginal Sabbat. He had gone.
Don’t drop into the mundanity of groups and qualifications, if what you want is more. Don’t fall from individuality. Fall, or stray, from that unvital consensus. Don’t listen. Your night is young.