I guess it’s what it sounds like on the tin: a year ago, on May 24th or 25th (my journal is inexact), I vowed, very quietly, to avoid talking about my magical practice for one year.
This did not seem, at the time, to be particularly onerous. I had exactly three people I could really talk to about it. One listens politely, one, at the time, was less interested than now, and one is my partner, who is sort of contractually obligated to listen to me run at the mouth, at least a little. But then, three months into this year of magical silence, I joined the predecessor of the HHoL. It is much worse to keep silence when you’re in a big community of people who share the interest and the practice. Shit.
Why did I bother?
This is a very good question, thanks for asking, or at least for reading the heading. The answer comes in two parts.
The first is that I read about someone who did it and it sounded like something that would be helpful to me. Specifically (I can say this now, the year’s up), I was reading Chic Cicero’s introduction to an edition of Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn, affectionately known ny many as "the brick." According to Regardie, inductees to the Golden Dawn we’re enjoined to keep silence about their work for a year, excepting only their mentor in the system. I didn’t have a mentor, but what Cicero said about it got me to thinking.
And what I thought was part two: sometimes I kind of talk about magic just because I think it’s cool. And it is! But that’s not really the best reason to talk about it, at least not when it’s the only reason. I’d like to think I don’t act the edgy idiot, but I definitely sometimes bring up magic in a room full of people who don’t practice, aren’t interested in practicing, and just sort of nod and move on. Why spend the time?
This sucked let me tell you
I chatter, pretty much all the time. I’m the person who imagines arguments with people who don’t exist, or worse, people who do but whom I can’t actually talk to (or yell at). I don’t need to be perceived as the smartest person in the room anymore — grad school breaks a body of that eventually, or makes it worse. But I still want everyone to know I’m smart. So this was a challenge I assure you.
It was just so much worse when I joined the HHoL community, because everyone talks about what they’re doing, it’s basically what everyone logs Info! At the time of writing I don’t know if this will happen, but I’ve had at least two people threaten to schedule a time to ask me questions because they know I’m on a timer. There have been a few times when I could have actually said something from experience! Not many, mind you, but a few! But alas.
And what did we learn, children?
I’ve started telling the curious in the HHoL that they will be sorely disappointed when they learn exactly what I get up to, because the answer is, it turns out, not much.
I definitely got to enjoy the benefits of the little fish swimming into the even larger pond without the horrible embarrassment that usually causes. I did not have a moment in which I had been shooting my mouth off only to learn that nearly everyone in the server knows more than me, because I was keeping my mouth shut. Will I carry that lesson forward into the future? Hard to say! I still like talking!
More seriously, I think I learned a lot about the value of the work I am doing. Instead of doing the work, thinking in the back of my head that I would get to tell someone all about it one day, I was just doing it. And in that sense it’s been extremely valuable. I obviously do hope to share some of my experiences and insights, as pauce as they are, but I think I’ve started to figure out the line, the things that are for sharing and the things that aren’t.
There’s this line in the Golden Dawn initiation ceremony, at least in the version the Ciceros put into their self-initiation book:
I solemnly promise not to flaunt or parade any knowledge I may acquire to those who are not seekers of the Light, lest our sacred Knowledge be profaned through my error, vanity, or neglect.[^1]
Now, the secrecy aspect of the Golden Dawn initiations is a little odd, and I’ve taken part in some conversations about ways to edit those to make them more ethical — but that’s why I’m quoting this line, instead of the far more famous line about the initiate dying if they break the vow.[^2] I don’t know if I fuck with the idea of the "Knowledge" being "profaned." I’m not sure it can be, because I’m not convinced the sacred/profane division is a useful one. Yes, I may write about this more in the future. Yes, Eliade is still cool.
What I mean here is that I don’t think telling somebody about the visions I have during a ritual will somehow profane the spirits that I spoke to or the actions that I took. But what can and does happen is that retelling of things waters them down. Whenever we remember something, to some degree we’re actually remembering the last time that we remembered it. So, for simplicity’s sake, think of a simple event like seeing a dog. The first time you remember it, you kind of revisit the moment that it happened, you recreate it mentally. And by doing that you sort of make a story out of it (really this is happening all the time, it’s a recursive process, but I said this was a simple version). So when you remember it again, you actually go back and experience that first time you thought about it, more than the event itself. Eventually you remember the story.
Now sometimes that’s just fine. I like having a story made of the ritual that made me realize I was non-binary. But sometimes the experience should remain what it was, as much as possible. And turning it into something for the consumption of others does change it even more than the vagaries of time and the human brain will on their own.
So realizing that leaving some things well enough alone was a great net benefit of this whole affair, really.
I think it will also help me to tell the stories that are worth telling and that won’t leave me a little emptier afterwards. Sitting in silence while I saw other people tell their stories helped me to really read them, instead of thinking of how I could reply with my own. And so now I know which ones I liked seeing and which ones I felt weren’t that helpful.
Do I recommend this to anyone else?
[^1]:Cicero, Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications. 1998. Print. p. 31
[^2]: ibid p. 38
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