An interesting set of cards today, on the question of a life’s path from a young sorceress.
Which path is more suitable for me: the left hand path or the right hand path?
In the parlance of magical discourse this question refers to what others have identified as black magic or white magic. I’m not so keen on making any such distinctions myself, as I see magic simply dealing with power, and not with the methods we devise to make use of this power. But I like to answer such questions for the sake of the structural contrast and symmetry that the cards often present us with.
As it happens, the cards today were quite blunt, yet in the final analysis one must make up one’s mind as to who is to call the shots on making the final decision to walk either this side or the other side of magical practice.
I did a three-card reading for each:
On the left hand path we found:
The Pope, Justice, the Devil
On the right hand path we found:
The Lovers, The Magician, Judgment
How do we read these cards if we take the literal context of the question into consideration? It is as if the cards show an exact description of what we’re dealing with at hand:
Black magic belongs to the realm of the Devil.
White magic belongs to the realm of the Angel.
Or so they say.
Here, it becomes crucial to understand what the sorceress wants, to begin with: To be in cahoots with the Devil, and do what there is to be done in terms of pacts and bonds, or to mediate relations between the ambivalent subject (herself included) and the public?
Whereas the Devil invites us to the underworld, asking us to start with confronting our own demons, the Angel says, ‘all rise, and let us now hear the news.’
Whereas in the first example we clearly have a situation that requires a complete cut (Justice) with the dogma of the mainstream church (Pope), and enter a formal submission to the Lord of Darkness (Justice + Devil), the second example demonstrates a need to rise above the very idea of choice (Lovers) by tricking oneself (Magician) into believing that the sharing of higher learning is possible (Judgment).
Whereas in the first example, describing the left hand path, we are asked to consider giving up a pound of our own flesh and blood in exchange for magical knowledge (Justice cuts and weighs), the second example, for the right hand path, shows us that we are dependent on the community to acknowledge our magic. Moreover here, as the Magician is looking back at his options, we are meant to understand that he may not be aware of how much of that doubting of himself he ends up carrying into the new world, or new eon.
Whereas the first example may involve working with necromancy, the ancestors, or the spirit of the telluric forces, the last example emphasizes work with the celestial forces as received by the larger group. If the first example shows us the transmission of personal gnosis, the price being going down, the second example shows us the transmission of group mentality, the price being having to listen up.
Now, let’s go back to the question of suitability. Which one of these magical paths is more suitable for our sorceress?
Firstly, the answer to this question must be given in the preference for the particular practice that each of these three-card sequences describes ever so clearly. Secondly, the cards show us how agency is always in our own hands. If you’re ready to enter a relation of exchange – you pay for your magical lunch – then you can expect the Devil to do your bidding when you need it. In the last example, while you’re free to rise to the occasion or not, if you do, you’ll rely on the community to pay for your magical lunch, and then, well, be ready to serve, for as they say, there is no free lunch.
While the first example may be good for the solitary witch and work with individual power, the second may be good for the ones who like group power, and working with circles of people.
Now, let us make clear that these divisions are culturally determined, and that if we run when we see the Devil, then it is probably because of the irrational fear instilled in us all by the grand religions of the world, having an agenda that has little to do with what I like to call natural magic.
This being the case, one then needs to also assess to what extent one can live with the cultural labels and epithets that the society at large will be more than ready to bestow on what one is doing. It may well be a good idea in this sense to ask oneself: Why is working with the ‘Devil’ condemned, while working with the ‘Angel’ is consecrated? Which camp do I want to be in? The winners or the losers? Bear in mind that I’m still talking from the perspective of the society and what the society is ready to do to people who transgress the rules of the society. Now, this transgressive lunch ain’t too pretty, and history has it that good folks have been burned for a lot less than this discussion here.
THE THING ITSELF
I was quite grateful to the cards today for spelling out what is at stake in walking a particular path. I salute the courageous ones, if they go with the Devil, for they will have shown determination and a willingness to live with ‘the crazy.’ But I also salute the ones who choose the Angel, for they can also perform work that is needed in terms of how we negotiate our place within the larger community. And then I salute the ones who can do both, for they will have said: ‘Fuck it, I don’t give a flying fuck about what others think.’
I took a walk in the Swedish woods today with this question in mind, and how one can best help out the young ladies and gentlemen who would like to try their hand at magic. While stumbling quite by chance over a remote place featuring all sorts of horned gods, I also almost tripped over a stone that brought me for a second straight back to Romania, where I grew up. Zamolxis, I found myself whispering, and then wondered what it was that put me on that track.
Keep going, y’all. Sooner or later you’ll stumble over just the path that leads you to your truth.
Note on the cards: Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot (1650) as reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy.
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