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As you enter the heart of witchcraft, you find at its core the power of sacred space. In Christopher Penczaks first book, The Inner Temple of Witchcraft, you found the sacred space within yourself. Now The Outer Temple of Witchcraft helps you manifest the sacred in the outer world through ritual and spellwork. The books twelve lessons, with exercises, rituals, and homework, follow the traditional Wiccan one-year-and-a-day training period. It culminates in a self-test and self-initiation ritual to the second degree of witchcraftthe arena of the priestess and priest.
Sacred Space and the Circle If you enter the heart of the teachings of witchcraft, at the core you will find the power of sacred space. When I started, “sacred space” was just words in a ritual. No one really explained the true meaning of that term to me. “Sacred space” was just a buzzword. But as I kept saying it as a part of the rituals, I learned. Eventually, the layers of the mystery were revealed to me. I finally understood what sacred space was all about.
Looking back on it, it seems so obvious, but the teachings I initially received didn't emphasize the sacred aspects of the craft. Everyone around me was so afraid of using the word “religion” or “spirituality”; so much was kept to the technical and philosophical. And at the time, that's what I needed. My emphasis wasn't on the sacred. Now, in my own teachings, I have a hard time divorcing myself from talking about the spiritual path of witchcraft, because it is all part of what led me to my spiritual path. At the moment, if you are like I was, you might not appreciate this. In fact, I can describe it at length and with my own personal stories and meanings, but until you seek spirituality out and start to experience it yourself, my words are meaningless.
I've contemplated not sharing these things, but letting my students figure it out for themselves, as I did. I decided not to for one simple reason. For many people, the craft of the witch becomes so focused on spellwork or memorizing rituals that even the concept of the greater meanings and mysteries never cross their minds. The possibility is not contemplated and explored because, for so many, it is unknown. Students will still have to figure it out on their own, truly, because it must experienced.
All I hope to do is plant a small seed of awareness, and give you the means to be your own gardener, the means to care for and nurture that seed. You can always choose to grow something else. You can save the seed of truly understanding sacred space for a later time, like I did. Or, you can grow it and make it flourish right now. The choice is up to you.
Perfect Love and Perfect Trust Sacred space is simply honoring the sacredness, the divinity, found in all things everywhere. Through the ritual of the witch's circle, we mark a territory, a circle that can be out in nature or in our bedroom, and recognize its sacredness. We acknowledge that this space exists not only in the physical, but also in all worlds, and opens the doorway between the worlds, to be in conscious communion with the sacredness on all levels of reality. Our temple is said to stand not in any one world, but between the worlds, and in all worlds. In our sacred space, there is no separation. Through it we partner with all that is seen and unseen, through perfect love and perfect trust.
“Perfect love and perfect trust” were other buzzwords I heard in circle. Some traditions used them. Others didn't. But no one really explained to me what these important words meant, other than saying “sacred space” or “love and trust.” I knew the “perfect” was a big key to this mystery, but at the time, I was focused on the Moon, and picking the right time to do my spells, rather than really understanding what I was saying. I was told to say “perfect love and perfect trust,” so I did, but didn't know why and didn't really dwell on it.
Only once I ventured out of my safe world of Wicca did I really come to understand these five important words. I developed a very eclectic view of the witch, looking to all traditions, not just Celtic. I studied shamanism, energy healing, Kabalah, yoga, reiki, flower essences, and herbs, purposely looking outside the pagan view. Witchcraft became a vast umbrella for all these disciplines, since its philosophies gave me a great grounding that I noticed many in the “New Age” world didn't have. As the craft of the wise, I saw all these disciplines as part of witchcraft, though I soon found out many did not.
Through this exploration of new techniques and philosophies, I found a common thread: unconditional love. I wasn't big on the word “love.” I thought it misused. So many people say the word “love” but never really back it up with any meaning or intent. As a songwriter, I thought of all the trite songs using the word “love,” and how it has lost its value. So I avoided the word in my creative work. Even in my Witchcraft I class experience, I thought of self-love as self-confidence, assurance, and esteem. But here the word “love” kept on popping up. I thought these New Age practices a holdover from the 1960s, with vague concepts of free love and spiritual love, and started to question if I was learning anything of real value. Then I felt the love.
Through various meditation workshops, one in particular about awakening the heart chakra to unconditional love, I really felt it. I really awakened it. Like all things, I entered a skeptic, but from the first moment, I felt heaviness in my chest. As the day went on, it melted away and I left the weekend course dazzling, light, and with an open heart. Not only did I feel this nebulous unconditional love coursing through me, I had a sense that I am the love, too. Everyone is.
While reflecting on that experience in my Book of Shadows journal, I skimmed through my notes and realized that the first time I felt this type of love was in the witch's circle. It wasn't the same because I was not taught to really focus on it as a witch. In the workshop, that was the purpose of the entire weekend. But it was present in the first magickal circle, even if I had my eyes closed to it. I traced the teaching of this unconditional love back, and the start of my personal thread was in witchcraft classes, through perfect love and perfect trust.
Slowly on the intellectual level, I began to distinguish the difference between what my society had been calling love, what I would later call personal love, and what the mystics call unconditional love. Witches call it perfect love. Unconditional love is just that: perfect, unattached, without limits and restraints. This love simply is, and to me it is the binding force of the universe. In the ITOW, we covered the Hermetic principle called the Principle of Mentalism, stating “We are all thoughts in the divine mind,” meaning we are all part of a greater whole. I wish there was another principle stating we are all pulses within the divine heart, because it is through this heart we truly feel the unity, even though the mind can intellectually know it. With unconditional love, you are loved simply because you exist. You are love.
With personal love, that is our relationship love, be it familial, romantic, or friendship. There are often conditions to it and it sometimes seems to come with a struggle. The dichotomy between unconditional love and personal love, what mainstream society simply refers to both as love, pushed me to avoid the concept altogether. Unfortunately, English often lacks the subtleties of other languages, particularly on the spiritual concepts. Many other languages have separate words for differing kinds of love. Perfect trust is a divine sense of knowing and security with the creative spirit, the Goddess and God. We work actively to partner with the divine ones, through our magick and meditations, realizing that we are all part of that divine mind. But when things seem confusing, when our guidance isn't clear, when our magick isn't working as we planned, and when we are suffering tragedy, we have a trust in the divine through our knowing of being unconditionally loved. It isn't logical or rational, but when we truly experience and know it, no personal challenge will ever be viewed the same way again. Perfect trust runs both ways. As we have it through this unconditional love for the divine, we know the Goddess and God have it for us. They trust us to fulfill our parts of the pattern. We have infinite choices and freedom as to how we serve the large pattern and fulfill our parts, but we trust that all actions can serve the greater spiraling pattern of the universe.
Through practicing the rituals of perfect love and perfect trust, through creating sacred space, we grow in our sense of connection and love. Even if we don't initially feel it, it is there, growing and expanding in our awareness, until we are ready. We best manifest our desires, our magick, through truly feeling our connection to the Goddess, the God, and all the universe. We connect and create sacred space through the perfect love and perfect trust the divine has for us, and we have for them. If everything is sacred, all the time, and we simply do our rituals to open the door to a partnership with the sacred, everything is therefore filled with this unconditional love, this perfect love and perfect trust. All we have to do is open our eyes to it, in and out of our rituals. The challenge we have, as those walking the spiritual path of witchcraft, is to inject more and more perfect love and perfect trust, or sacredness, to all thoughts and actions in our life, bringing it to every relationship and exchange. No small feat to accomplish, but this is the path of enlightenment, taken one step at a time. As overused as the say- ing may be, it truly is the journey, and not the destination, when walking the witch's road.
The most important lesson I've learned in applying perfect love and perfect trust to the world is that unconditional love doesn't mean unconditional relationships. You can hold a sacred love for someone in your heart, and honor that person as a living being, as a spiritual soul, but you can draw a boundary for your own health and well-being. Unconditional love doesn't mean you encourage others to walk all over you and hurt you. As the witch's circle casts a boundary of sacred space, I think it is an important reminder that we, too, while in the physical plane, have appropriate boundaries of our own space, health, and well-being.
Return to the Inner Temple Before we go forward in our work, we should reflect on the inner temple. In ITOW, the lessons focused on finding a sacred space within yourself, on the inner planes of reality. Only through finding the sacredness on the unseen planes can you truly open the doorways between worlds and create a temple of sacred space intersecting with the physical world through the rituals of witchcraft.
A key lesson of this previous work was to gain the discipline to enter a meditative state, a level of altered consciousness where you can perceive energy more easily and direct it with your will. In the ritual state, you will not go as deep as in meditative, but understanding how to enter both levels of consciousness, easily at anytime, is a measure of a truly well-trained witch. Laurie Cabot used to say to my class that you should be able to enter alpha state while riding a crowded subway train. I don't recommend it, since that might blind you to the dangers of urban travel, but in theory, you should be able to do it.
The discipline aspect bothers some students. Feeling witchcraft is light, spacy, and free, they don't understand the need for discipline. Discipline is one aspect of the craft, but an important one. It is the earthy foundation upon which all other free and ecstatic practices are built. It is easy to get distracted, physically or magickally, and proper discipline lets us keep our focus clear regardless of distractions or surprises. When in the sacred space, all thoughts become thoughts of creation. Without mental discipline, you might create something you don't want. There are all sorts of precautions built into the rituals for this reason, but the best precaution is self-awareness. When I first started in Wicca, I was untrained in my first circle. Although it was a very magickal experience on all levels, I couldn't help but have distracting thoughts: “Is this real? I feel silly wearing a robe. Wow, the Moon came out from behind the clouds when she called it.”
I even had thoughts from my previous years of Catholicism, thinking, “Uh oh, perhaps I was wrong about this witchcraft thing. Perhaps God is mad at me for this and we are going to Hell.” Not the best thoughts to be having in a sacred space, but perfectly understandable. I had them flash in my mind, and hear many first-time witches feel the same thing, but feel embarrassed to admit it. Thankfully none of us created from those thoughts, but the circle space can intensify all feelings. Some people feel overwhelmed in the sacred space. They are usually people who are undisciplined or ungrounded in themselves and their own self-image and self-esteem. Such energy can be overwhelming even to one fully aware, depending on the ritual.
The key to fully integrate into the sacred space and be open to the most magickal of experiences is the ability to clear the mind, enter an altered state, and tune into the sacred energies within you and the circle, to bring balance and harmony. Some people can do it naturally without any training, but the best way I've found to teach it to others is to learn the discipline of meditation.
Altered States To work magick and meditation, you must be able to enter an altered state, often called gnosis. In magick, an altered state is any level of brain activity that is different from normal waking activity that helps you process energy, will, and intuition. Our states of consciousness are based on brain wave activity. The four states we are more concerned about are beta, alpha, theta, and delta. Beta is normal waking consciousness, at thirteen to sixteen hertz, or cycles, per second. Alpha is the magickal state most people talk about, a light meditative state clocking in at eight to thirteen cycles per second. When we visualize creatively, daydream, meditate, and enter a light hypnotic state, we are in alpha. Theta is a deeper state, ranging from four to eight hertz. The lowest state is delta, at four or less hertz.
Alpha is the state we are most involved in for this book. Light states of alpha are called ritual consciousness. You must be open and aware to energy and intuition, but not so deep that you are immobile. During rituals you still need to speak, light candles, read spells, and perform other actions. In group rituals, you need to be aware of silent cues and group dynamics while still maintaining your magickal awareness. On the deeper levels of alpha, moving toward theta, we enter a more immobile, deeper awareness, tuning into the inner planes. Some totally block out the physical world, while others are true walkers between the worlds, aware of both the inner reality and outer world simultaneously. I've had both experiences, depending on my own times of personal power and awareness. Neither is better than the other, as long as it works for you. Learn this technique to enter a meditative state. Use only the first countdown when needing to enter ritual consciousness. Do the complete countdown for deeper meditation and journeying.
Entering an Altered State 1. Get into a comfortable position. If you are going into an inner meditative experience, make sure you are sitting comfortably, either feet flat on the floor, or cross-legged on the floor. If you are getting into ritual consciousness, simply stand with feet apart to give you balance and support.
2. Take a few deep breaths and relax your body. Bring your awareness to the top of your body, starting at the head, and give yourself permission to relax. As you breathe, release the tension. Move from your head and neck into the shoulders and arms. Relax and feel all the tension melt away. Relax your chest and back. Feel waves of relaxation move down your spine. Relax your abdomen, lower back, and hips. Relax your legs down to your ankles and feet. Feel the waves of relaxation sweep all that doesn't serve your highest good out through your fingers and toes, grounding and neutralizing this unwanted energy into the Earth, transforming it like the earth turns fallen leaves into new soil.
3. Relax your mind. Release any unwanted thoughts and worries as you exhale. Relax your heart and open it to the love of the Goddess and God. Relax your soul and follow your inner light, guidance, and protection.
4. Visualize a giant screen before you, like a blackboard or movie screen. This is the screen of your mind, or what is called your mind's eye. Whenever you visualize or recall anything, remember a person's face or anything else, you project it onto this screen. Anything you desire will appear on the screen.
5. On the screen of your mind, visualize a series of numbers, counting down from 12 to 1. With each number, you get into a deeper meditative state.
The numbers can be any color you desire, drawn as if writing them, or appearing whole.
Now visualize 12, see the number 12 on your screen, 12. 11, see the number 11 on your screen, 11. 10, see the number 10 on your screen, 10. 9, see the number 9 on your screen, 9. 8, see the number 8 on your screen, 8. 7, see the number 7 on your screen, 7. 6, see the number 6 on your screen, 6. 5, see the number 5 on your screen, 5. 4, see the number 4 on your screen, 4. 3, see the number 3 on your screen, 3. 2, see the number 2 on your screen, 2. 1, see the number 1 on your screen, 1.
6. You are at your ritual consciousness. Everything done at this level is for your highest good, harming none.
7. You are now counting down to a deeper, more focused meditative state. Count backward from 13 to 1, but do not visualize the numbers this time. Let the numbers gently take you down. 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
You are now at your deepest meditative state, your magickal mindset, in complete control of your magickal abilities. Say to yourself, “I ask the Goddess and God to protect and guide me in this meditation.”
8. From this point, you can continue on to other exercises and experiences, or meditate at this level for a bit and bring yourself up, counting from 1 to 13 and then 1 to 12. Gently start to wiggle your fingers and toes, and slowly move to bring your awareness back to the physical.
9. Take both hands and raise them up over your head, palms facing your crown. Slowly bring them down over your forehead, face, throat, chest, abdomen, and then groin, and “push out” with your palms facing away from you. This gives you clearance and balance, releasing any harmful or unwanted energies you might pick up during your magickal experiences. Tell yourself:
“I give myself clearance and balance. I am in balance with myself. I am in balance with the universe. I release all that does not serve me.”
10. Ground yourself as needed. You can ground yourself back into the physical state by pressing your hands down onto the floor and releasing excess energy to the Earth. You can also visualize your feet and toes as roots digging deep into the earth. When all else fails, activate your digestive system by drinking a full glass of water or eating something can bring your energy back to your body.
The following meditation is the most important experience from ITOW. Called the Inner Temple meditation, it is to help a witch find the sacred within her- or himself. If you have already experienced this or a similar meditation, try it again. Visiting your own inner sacred space regularly is an important part of the practice of witchcraft.
EXERCISE 2 The Inner Temple
1. Start Exercise 1: Entering an Altered State to get into your meditative mindstate.
2. In your mind's eye, visualize the great World Tree, a gigantic tree reaching up to the heavens and deep below the earth, larger than any tree you have ever seen. It is a sacred tree and you may recognize it as oak, ash, pine, willow, or any other tree that has meaning for you. If you don't visualize anything, sense the tree with your other psychic senses. Hear the wind through its branches. Smell the earth where its roots dig in. Feel the texture of the bark. Simply know the tree is there and it will be. The tree is ever present and everywhere.
3. Imagine the screen of your mind's eye is like a window or doorway, a portal you can easily pass through. Step through the screen and stand before the World Tree. Look up and feel its power. Touch the tree and place in it the intention of visiting your inner temple.
4. Look around the base of the giant tree, in the roots, and search for a passageway. It may be a hole or tunnel, or even a pool of water that gives you entry into the tree. As you enter, you find yourself in a tunnel, winding and spiraling to your inner temple.
5. At the end of the tunnel you see a light, and you move toward that light and step out into your inner temple. Look around. Take stock of all you see. Notice all the fine details of your sacred space. Let the images come to you. The inner temple can be a place you have visited in the physical world, or an amalgam of sacred sites and shrines from your deepest inner knowing.
6. Explore your inner temple. You will find a variety of sacred objects for your use. Usually there is a reflective surface, such as a mirror or pool of water for gazing. Gardens, plants, altars, crystals, and a variety of tools will be found. Gateways leading to other energies and levels of consciousness can also be found. Your inner temple is like your launching pad for deeper journeys.
7. If there is anything about your temple you do not like, you can change it now by doing some inner spiritual decorating. Your temple will reflect your own inner being. Usually it responds to your will, and reflects your state of inner awareness. If something will not change, it is usually a message that you need to change something in your physical life to make the inner change a reality.