Magick Au Natural (or Skyclad), A Primer

March 16, 2009

What is Skyclad Magick

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Skyclad Magick is any working which is done nude (in other words clad only by the sky, although the term also encompasses indoor workings, which semantically should be called tracklightclad), whether these workings are done as a group or as solitary workings.

Skyclad also encompasses several different definitions. Some define Skyclad, most basically, as being without any kind of clothing. Others define it as also being without make-up, perfumes, deodorant, or shampoo. And others include those clothed in body paint as being skyclad.

The History of Skycladskyclad

It’d be nice if there was a long and revered history of ritual nudity to point to in arguing for skyclad practices, but none really exists. Although we see nudity practiced in some obscure forms of Eastern religions, we don’t see it in any of the ones that have had a major influence on the west. In the western world we can suppose that there has, in the past, been ritual nudity. Humans were most likely practicing some sort of ritual prior to the invention of clothing. We do know some of the Greeks and Romans were rather decadent and liked there orgies, and that there were probably some spiritual undertones in some of there orgy havings. But whatever was done then is largely lost, and we don’t see any clear lineage from those earlier rituals (which were small and minority rituals) up to the modern day.

Until the middle of the 20th century, Western occultism was practiced clothed. There is no evidence that traditional witches ever practiced in the nude. Ceremonial magicians have always practiced clothed. Even Allister Crowley, known for combining his sexual wants with his ritual practices, never managed to get into nude rituals, more than likely because he was too busy trying to convince male friends to have anal intercourse with him for reasons that meant he was still entirely heterosexual. There are some spells in the old grimoires that were meant to make groups of women or groups of people dance around in the nude, but that was not a part of the ritual, but rather the end result of it, after which the practitioner could then watch them dancing in the nude.

Skyclad magick and ritual nudity was pretty much spearheaded by Gerald Gardener, the founder of Wicca. The theological basis for Gardener’s skyclad rituals were based in negative Christian folklore about witches which supposed them to do secret nude rituals, and also in a mistranslation of a line in the Aradia of the Witches. It should be noted though that Gardener had a host of sexual fetishes, and that he used his spiritual position as a founder of a religion in order to recruit willing partners to participate in his fantasies which also included female domination and sado-machosism, and that he would grasp at spiritual straws to justify these acts.

After Gardener had come along, a lot of other folks started incorporating skyclad rituals into their own religions. Skyclad rituals meshed very well with the hippie movement that eventually invaded and took over most of the neopagan religions and also liked running around naked.

In recent years skyclad practices have largely fallen out of vogue. Even many Gardnerian Wiccans, who claim to practice the original form of Wicca created by Gardener, don’t practice skyclad, and they don’t follow a lot of Gardener’s more sexualized practices either. Most of the rituals that were originally meant to be done in the nude are now done clothed.

The Magick of Equality: Does Nudity Make Us Equals

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A point generally brought up by pro-skyclad Wiccans is that nudity makes us equals. We no longer have the class system attached to us. We aren’t separated between those who can afford nice clothes and those who can’t. This lack of separation would also happen if we replaced naked with modest robes.

Unfortunately beyond flashy clothes, skyclad doesn’t do much to make us equals. Some people are still pretty, and some are fat, and no amount of clothing, or lack thereof, is going to help the situation. Some of us are going to be more powerful than others. The regular religious hierarchies that exist tend to exist while naked the same as when clothed.

Cloth & Color: A Minor Variable Sidestepped

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It should be noted that the most magickal possessions most people possess (other than their bed), are their clothes. Experienced practitioners are more likely than most to have an object which puts their clothes to shame, but at the same time their clothes are going to be even more magickal than what is typical among non-practitioners. Our emotion and our energy, through out the day, taints our clothes. Washing our clothes helps, although it doesn’t nearly do enough insofar as cleansing them. The longer the clothes have been worn, the more powerful they may be. And our clothes, in turn, may taint or otherwise affect both ourselves or the ritual. When we enter a ritual clothed, we’re never entering a ritual clean. Many books recommend not only preritual baths and cleansings, but also special clean garments only adorned during ritual for this very reason.

Secondly, color is another variable. Some practitioners discard color altogether because it is not as strong a symbolism as some would like. Color does however have an, albeit minor, effect on magick workings. Some books and practitioners swear by being draped in the proper colors for the spell at hand.

However clothing and color are both minor variables in determining the success and power of ones magick. Neither is so great a factor that it can’t be overcome, or can only be over come with great effort. There are of course exceptions. Sometimes an article of clothing can become so energized that it will have a very serious effect on the ritual. However this problem can be solved simply by wearing something else.

Still, it should be noted that these things can affect ritual, and that by practicing skyclad these variables no longer need to be considered.

Simplicity, Primality, Transformation, and Butt-Nakedness

Nakedness is our most natural state of dress. It’s how we come into this world. It’s how we survived as a species prior to the advent of clothing. Our clothing ads another layer to ourselves, another level of complexity. Typically within magick and ritual one moves towards simplicity rather than complexity, one tries to remove as many layers from the problem as possible. Simplicity is seen as the better and more powerful state, the natural state of things within the universe, and it’s easiest to work ones will when that will is worked in the natural directions of the universe, not against it.

Naked, being both our natural state and primary state, allows us to become more primal in our being. For some being naked means tapping into a more primary, animalistic state. For others it is just being more free, less inhibited, and a closer approximation to their true self. In any case, in this state a practitioner’s energy is more raw, less encumbered and tainted, and the practitioner experiences a greater degree of focus and their will and desires are better focused, all of this making spellwork easier and more successful.

Finally some practitioners may use nudity as a trigger to transform them from one state to another. To move from their normal selves to their more magickal selves. To help them cast away, temporarily, their anchors and ties into the real and solid world and move into a less solid more magickal state where more things are possible. Conditioned properly, a practitioner can see a dramatic transformation between a clothed and naked state, and can amass this power with less work than what would typically be required. However one should be careful utilizing this method. There are definite drawbacks to not being able to tap most of your power unless you’re naked.

Intimacy, Nudity, and Bonding

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Most people see nudity as an intimate act. For most of us, the first people of an opposite gender who saw us naked after puberty started was a person who we engaged in some intimate carnal act with. For most of us, most of the people of the opposite gender who see us naked are people we are intimately involved with. For a lot of people, nudity is directly tied to sex. For a lot of people, casual and non-utilitarian nudity is only something that occurs between two people who are sexually involved with each other.

The point being, for a large part nudity and intimacy are one in the same. Therefor when a ritual is performed skyclad there is an added degree of intimacy between the participants, even if they don’t know each other very well. With a regular group, this intimacy helps with group bonding. But even with strangers who will never meet again, nudity will help them connect together, become one, and work the ritual as a single whole rather than a group of individuals. The individual members will also find it easier to connect to one and another, and psychic links will more easily form between them, once again making it easier for the individuals to work as a group.

Symbolism of Nudity and Opening the 3rd Eye

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When we’re naked, we’re exposed. We’ve completely opened ourselves up and exposed ourselves to everything in the nearby area. This is a literal truth on the physical level. But is also symbolic of opening ourselves up and exposing ourselves emotionally (thus intimacy, as explained above), and also opening ourselves up spiritually. Being naked is symbolic of letting down a shield, and both exposing ourselves and opening ourselves up to our surrounding environment. Especially when the symbolism of the event is acknowledged, this will make it easier for the practitioner to experience the metaphysical. For lack of a better way to describe it, it will make them more psychic and more empathic.

Sacred Nudity and Reverence

Most of us, when we present ourselves to a god, we want to present ourselves in an acceptable way. The situation may not always allow this. We might need to contact a deity right now, and we can’t wait to take a shower or dress ourselves properly. The gods understand this. But a lot for the time we do have time. And then there’s the question of how should we present ourselves. Likewise even when we don’t use a god, when we do magick most of us would like to present ourselves in a way that is becoming of the sacredness of the event.

If we have sacred clothes, like ceremonial robes, this might do. If not, we’d usually lean towards nice, clean clothes. What nice means though would be very subjective. Some might define that as expensive suits and dresses. Others as unfaded jeans and a favorite t-shirt. Some will argue that you should always address the gods in Renfair costumes, regardless of the fact that almost every god predates the renaissance style of dress, the style was only in vogue in certain regions of Western Europe and is thus regionally inappropriate for most gods, and that Renfair costumes typically lack accuracy.

Nudity is, however, always appropriate for presentation to a deity or a sacred event. Nudity is a sacred state of being. As already mentioned it’s how we come into this world. When we disrobe we’re also gracing those around us with the beauty of our physical form. We are making a sacrifice of our modesty so that others may take pleasure in our natural form. We are showing reverence to and making a gift to those around us, be they other humans, entities, or gods. When we are naked, we’re always in a sacred state. The sacredness of that state is only lost when we attempt to hide or cover ourselves, or when we try to stop or otherwise punish others for looking at us or particular body parts, staring at us, or having impure thoughts about us. When we disrobe and present ourselves as such it is a sacred gift given onto the recipient, to be used as they please and not to be taken back.

Nudity and Sexual Energy

Nudity can be utilized within ritual in order to raise sexual energy. When you get a bunch of people together, running around naked, they start getting horny, and before long you get a bunch of sexual energy that can be used and manipulated in the spellwork. For best results you want as many pretty people, both men and women, in the group as possible. Pretty people turn other people on. Ugly people may turn other people on, but not as much. Youth is also good, young people tend to have much stronger sex drives and more sexually repressed energy. You may also have much better results if participants agree to refrain from sexual acts or masturbation for a period preceding the ritual. Three days is a good amount of time. Likewise you’ll get better results if flirting and some petting is allowed during the time of the ritual, of course you don’t want anyone having orgasms during the ritual, since that would be counterproductive, you just want them getting about as close as you can get them.

In a setting like this, energy can easily be raised, even among those who are not very good at energy manipulation, by normally mundane acts like dancing around each other and various games and activities that involve touching and caressing each other.

Orgies

Generally, if you want to raise sexual energy, don’t have sex. There is a point within an orgasm when the energy will hit peak and will be at its strongest for the individual. This only lasts for a moment though, and grasping and manipulating this energy is a difficult feat. It can be done, but it is typically beyond the ability of most practitioners and beyond the scope of most rituals. But there are other things that can be done with ritual orgies, everything from connecting the group as one to amassing the energies to some ends to simply reveling in a state of primal and uncompromising sexual ecstasy and desire. I do think that this is, however, far to vast an area to go into detail in the scope of this essay.

Being Naked — Just Because

Of course there is something to be said for being naked just because. It is a sacred state of being, and so being naked is sacred. It can be its own ends, rather than a means to something else. It can be a spiritual experience in and of itself. Or possibly just something one enjoys doing. To be exposed, open, uninhibited, intimate, free, primal, and sacred all at once.


Waite and Crowley: BFF

December 6, 2008

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What follows is mental masturbation devoid spiritual value. Proceed at your own risk.

Waite Vs Crowley is the Nintendo Vs Sega rivalry of the magickal world. It’s the most well-known, most participated in debate, and a classic that will never die. Even today, these two men both being dead for over a half-century, one only has to spend a bit of time on the Internet to see Waite fans talking smack about Crowley, and Crowley fans talking smack about Waite. These men have become opposing icons of the magickal world, the wise old school occultist vs the sexy bad boy of magick. Unfortunately its all a lie.

Let’s begin by deconstructing the two reasons why these men would have a rivalry to begin with (and we’ll get to the rest later on). The first reason being, and the least complicated of the two, that they were possessed of two very different views on spirituality and magick. These two western ceremonial magicians who were both greatly influenced by the Golden Dawn and the works of Eliphas Levi, who were both well read literary men, and who both valued tarot enough to create their own decks (with some surprising similarities). I could go on, but all I get are similarities. One of the major differences listed is the fact that Crowley published secret information where as Waite believed in keeping it secret. But Waite published secret information when it pleased him to do so (the strength-justice switch of the Golden Dawn for example), where as Crowley created secret information for the eyes of the highest levels of the OTO only (and the OTO still practices this secrecy today). Furthermore the written works of both men are definitely valuable works created by adepts, and neither one, being at the level they were, could truthfully deny the value of the other’s work. Ultimately one can only surmise that these two men were not possessed of very different views on spirituality and magick, in fact they had strikingly similar views on spirituality and magick.

Secondly there’s the belief that this mutual hatred stems from the fact that Waite was part of one of several factions within the Golden Dawn that wished to change its direction, where as Crowley was a loyalist to Mathers, and that Crowley had played a central role in the ultimate demise of the Golden Dawn, something Waite wouldn’t forgive him for.

Let’s start with the idea that Crowley was a loyalist to Mathers. This is generally gathered from Crowley’s own statements about his history with the Golden Dawn, however this history has been disputed by some, particularly that Crowley achieved the 5=6 adept grade, which Crowley claimed was bestowed upon him personally by Mathers in a secret ceremony. There is evidence that Crowley received the 5=6 material from a friend, and that he never surpassed 4=7. Crowley’s own accounts also show that he felt that Mathers and the Golden Dawn had cheated him out of his money, that the secret information was not what was neither secret nor what he was initially promised, and he had a very bitter and public rivalry with Mathers until the later’s death, both publishing the secret Golden Dawn material developed by Mathers and publicly claiming Mathers had engaged in psionic vampirism against him. Although Waite was definitely opposed to Mathers in the end, Crowley seems to be in the same boat with him. Shortly after the original Golden Dawn resolved both men went on to form their own splinter groups, Crowley forming the A.A. and Waite taking over the Isis-Urania temple. Loyalists to Mathers were men like Edward Berridge and J.W. Innes-Brodie who were part of the reconstructed Alpha et Omega, not Crowley who seems to have jumped ship with most everyone else.

As for Crowley being a central figure in the dissolution of the Golden Dawn, I’m sure Crowley liked what this “fact” did for his rep, but ultimately there isn’t much support for this idea either. The Golden Dawn lasted for fourteen years, a very long time for a group of its type, and in that time it had grown to several hundred members with several different temples, all with their own leaders. The group had become large and bloated, the two remaining of the three founding members were at odds with each other, they had been disowned by their German superiors, and their leader had relocated to Paris while the bulk of the organization was in England and being led by others. Factions were forming against Mathers, and that the group had to change was inevitable prior to Crowley joining (which occurred very late in the Golden Dawn’s life-cycle).

Even if Crowley was responsible for the death of the Golden Dawn though, this isn’t something that should have bothered Waite one bit. He was, after all, one of the folks that wanted to change the current direction of the group. Ultimately the dissolution of the Golden Dawn ended with Waite wrestling complete control over Isis-Urania, the group’s original temple, from Brodie-Innes, which Waite held for over a decade before he ran it into the ground on his own.

So if the two didn’t have a reason to fight, what would they get out of a rivalry. To begin to answer that, one has to look at how traditionally, and to a large part even today, magickal information is gathered. When someone is reading a book concerning ceremonial magick, sometimes other books or magicians are named. For instance when Waite references Papus and the Tarot of the Bohemians in the PKT. The reader is then aware of another author or book to look for, and in this way the author recommends other books to the reader by pointing them out. It isn’t coincidence that nearly every book listed in the bibliography to Waite’s extraordinarily popular PKT are considered important and influential books on tarot, even if he did kind of pan them.

The problem is, there’s no such thing as bad press. Although a book Waite says is devoid any value obviously won’t send as many seekers as one he highly praises, he’ll still send more people towards it than if he outright refuses to mention it. So if you know what you’re doing, as Waite did, you never mention a name or book title of someone you despise. We actually see this with Paul Foster Case, a former Alpha et Omega member and anti-enochian magician that actually did dislike Crowley and his works. When Case goes off on Crowley, which he does, he never mentions him by name. If you’re familiar with Crowley already, you’ll probably get everything Case is trying to say, and maybe be deterred from him. If you’re not familiar with Crowley though, you’ll have no idea what Case is talking about, and so he isn’t leading you to him.

Waite and Crowley, however, were both very willing to specifically name the other. And their insults only go to grow each others reputations in a positive way. Every time Waite talks about Crowley he paints him as the magickal rebel, the guy who will let loose the great secrets without requiring years of dedication and the guy that will give away the powerful and, let’s face it, sexy magick that other people guard. Meanwhile Crowley paints Waite as an old school occultist that won’t give up on antiquated traditions, but this of course makes Waite out to be a wise old man with access to powerful information that he’s guarding.

Notice how both men also refrain from ever delivering a killing blow. Waite could have done tremendous damage to Crowley’s organizations had he simply shouted about the sexual practices, particularly homosexuality, present in Crowley’s system, something that would have been clearly discernible by examining just Crowley’s published works. Waite meanwhile was a notorious plagiarizer, and although Crowley may not have known about more obscure sources like the Sola-Busca tarot or the Book of Days, he definitely knew about some of the sources, like Waite lifting the design of the devil card from Levi. Had Crowley exposed Waite, he would have seriously knocked down Waite’s credibility and perceived value.

Also keep in mind both men were notorious liars. Many of the facts Crowley claims to have happened in his life are easily disproven with historical evidence. Meanwhile Waite outright lies at times, such as his belief that there was no connection between Kabbala and tarot (this when his own tarot deck has definite Kabbalistic influences). Neither man could really be trusted, and both are probably amused to no end that they managed to trick so many people for so long with a made up rivalry that did nothing but benefit both men.


On the origins of the Tarot

May 5, 2007

A lot of people feel the need to give the tarot a mystical beginning. That it came from lost Egyptian knowledge, that it was originally intertwined with Kabbalism, that it contains lost Hindi information, that it came to Europe via the gypsies, that it was invented to transmit occult or witchcraft information, ect.

However the real origins of the tarot have been well researched by archaeologists and historians who have studied the history of playing cards. It may not be known exactly where and when the tarot was created, but we do have a fairly accurate idea of it’s beginning.

In the fourteenth century it was becoming popular for artists to use cards as a medium for their artwork, and several art decks were created in Europe for various aristocrats. Games would soon be adapted to fit these decks. And as printing technology advanced decks of playing cards became accessible to the lower classes.

The first tarot decks appeared in Italy in the early fifteenth century. Although the first decks may have been intended as works of art, it wasn’t long before the cards started being used in a trick taking game similar to bridge. It’s unknown when exactly the cards were first used for divination. There’s no direct evidence of divination in the first few hundred years of the tarot’s life, although cards were a common divinatory device of the time, and speculatively the cards could have been used for divination within just a few years of their creation.

This is the real origin of the tarot. There is no evidence of any other origin, and there is no valid argument that can be made in dispute of this (although, admittedly, my facts weren’t properly checked and there may be a few minor errors here and there).

Many devotees of tarot discover this and instantly lose faith. Some stick their head in the sand and try to make believe that it isn’t true. And some critics use these facts to dispute any validity the tarot may have.

The best argument against this is the one made by Crowley. As a practical tool the tarot works. As a divinatory tool, as a meditative aid, as a means to transmit esoteric knowledge, we get verifiable results from the tarot when it is used properly. As for its origins, it really doesn’t matter where it came from, so long as it works.

But Crowley doesn’t get into how or why tarot works, just that it does and that should end any dispute. To begin with, age and origin isn’t very important when talking about truth. In Christianity, all things originate with God in the beginning, and so it’s common to view anything new as inherently wrong. Unfortunately many people who aren’t Christians, including many who call themselves Pagans, still can’t transcend a Christian perspective of things. Truth is. Age doesn’t make something more true, and youth doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be true.

Secondly, the tarot is just a medium, like a book. When we look at the origin of the tarot, we’re looking at the origin of the medium itself, not the origin of the occult tarot. Just like a book, anything can be put inside of the tarot. It can be meaningless, it can be a work of art, or it can be an enlightening spiritual work.

Taking this into account, there’s no longer anything that ties one tarot deck to another. At best, we can say that two decks are bound by both being spiritually true. But Crowley’s deck is no more like Waite’s deck than the Bhagavad Gita is like the book of Mormon. So with no common tie other than the medium, each deck has to stand on its own, with its own card meanings, and its own unique divinatory systems.

Yet we know this to be untrue. Different aspects of the truth can be seen in Crowley’s and Waite’s decks, yet the actual meanings of the cards remain the same. The Devil is still the Devil, the Two of Cups is still the Two of Cups, and Lust is the same as Strength. Meanwhile page 15 of the Bhagavad Gita is completely different than page 15 of the book of Mormon. So there has to be something more tying together every tarot deck, or at the very least every true occult tarot.

The common tie between the occult tarot decks is a single definitive deck. I use the term deck here very loosely and usually it is referred to as a book, but once again that term is very loose. This deck is what is sometimes referred to as the Book of Thoth. This is the complete, accurate, and unabridged tarot. Every portion of the deck contains infinite knowledge, but the deck itself cannot be completely transmitted into this world. The deck also transcends language and symbols, and so even if it’s known, it can’t even be properly communicated in this world, and it exists here only in translation.

All occult tarots transcend from this one definitive tarot. The tarots differ because it’s impossible to make a copy of the true Book of Thoth, so they end up as the author’s interpretation of the true Book of Thoth. Crowley interprets certain cards differently than Waite. Sometimes Crowley focuses more on one aspect of a card where as Waite will focus moreso on an entirely different aspect. Sometimes they’re trying to say the exact same thing, just in two completely different ways.

But regardless of whose deck you’re using, the Two of Cups is still the Two of Cups, and the meaning is exactly the same, because both cards are an allusion to the one true Two of Cups that exists inside of the one true deck. And the divantory meaning of the Two of Cups remains the same regardless of the deck when we divine from the source rather than the current interpretation.