And suddenly I began to cry, because I realized that I was in service to the gods to which I had been sworn. That I loved them for letting me be their pen and keyboard. And that I was part of something real, which could rise like a forest fire in my soul and could change the world, or crush me from inside. I was a Feri witch, sworn not just to “harm none” but to actually go out and do something in the world. …. For all my judgements and prejudices toward folks I know in the Feri community, coven, or class, new or old, of questioned or unquestioned lineage, I realized that they all had something in common. Not one of them would hesitate to use magic in defense of a craft sibling. They were completely fierce, and not bound by fear. We live our lives according to our own black hearts and the oaths we’ve sworn. It makes me proud to be a Feri initiate. It is integrity, impeccability, and the courage to maintain it, even when other witches would like to set you roasting over briquettes. …
And one day, when you hear that distant rumble, be ready. Because the gods will come calling, and you will do what you have been sworn to do. That is your answer. That is Feri. —Cholla Soledad, 2000.
There is an old saying in the Craft:
Who cannot hex, cannot heal;
Who cannot blast, cannot bless
Who cannot curse, cannot cure.
For some time now, I have been meditating upon these words. Though seemingly so provocative, I feel strongly in my heart that this ancient wisdom bears within itself a deep and essential truth. Not just for Witches, but for everyone.
In the book Fifty years in the Feri Tradition (1994), Cora Anderson wrote:
Our tradition is a martial art as deadly as any taught in Japan.
Martial arts training involves learning how to injure as well as how to disarm; ultimately, how to kill. Just as electricity can fry someone alive or power a machine that saves a life in an operating room, so too human spiritual energy–call it mana, qi, prana or what you will–is a Power that carries no innate morality. How could it? Morality–an ethical code of conduct–has everything to do with the intention, the focus, the Will with which Power is wielded. The integral Purity of that Power is something that must be maintained by its owner. She must observe this in the same degree of devotion and diligence with which an expert swordsman cleans, polishes, and hones his blade.
Ever try to chop vegetables with a dull knife? You won’t get very far. To attempt to confine human spiritual power to a “force for good,” as elaborated in some ethical codes, is in effect to cut that power off at the knees. To emasculate it, adulterate it, treat it as a sham, not a reality to be carefully wielded and honored. In many old Witchcraft traditions, the aim was not “goodness” in and of itself, but a state of Balance. Today we are seeing many spells in which an individual works “for the best possible outcome.” This is a somewhat muted way of stating that the best possible outcome of a situation may be one that leads to unhappiness for the individuals involved. In popular culture, we speak of “tough love.” The Priest/esses of old knew that lesson well.
Surgeons must learn to break bones as well as set them. Veterinarians must learn how to euthanize. Bomb specialists have to be expert in both dismantling and detonating deadly devices.
I was speaking to a friend about Aphrodite and Ares recently. Aphrodite has a little-known aspect as a War Goddess (“Aphrodite Bearing Arms”). It came to me that Ares also can play a role as a God of Love. My friend and I agreed that both the acts of fighting and making love share a very special intimacy. Fighting or coupling–both involve efforts in which the humans involved are stretched to their limits, and have the potential to enter a pure state, emotionally and energetically pristine. In Faery, this purity is called kala. I personally think of it as a state of inner balance, of alignment among the constituent parts of the Triple Will. Emotion plays a strong part in certain types of magic, as Phil Hine writes so persuasively in his essay on “The Magic of Need” in his excellent chapbook Permutations. The training of a Witch involves learning how to be in the flow of strong emotion and yet hold the point of balance. I see this as a very intensified form of kala. It is a very difficult state to put into words, but the energetic feel of it sometimes comes through in writing about the work of the Kahunas in Old Hawai’i.
All of this is one reason why the blade used by the Witch, the athame, to cast the circle and direct energy, is a blade with a double edge. For some of us, the double edge is a very palpable reminder of the Divine Twins brought forth by the Mother for Her Pleasure and Joy at the dawn of Creation. The double edge is also a reminder of the twinned nature of the Power we wield, a Power that comes from the core of every human being. To own this Power, to honor it, to be secure in it, is the birthright of every human being. It is the same Power that feeds innate human desire, that is the wellspring of passion, that fosters excellence and impeccability in a healthy human manifesting hir full potential. Dam up that Power, deny its pristine Beauty and Strength, attempt to divert it from its innate course, and you have the panoply of neuroses and obsessions that are unfolding today in the popular cultural milieu of North American life.
Of old, Apollo and Artemis were honored as Divine Patrons of both healing and pestilence. The one brings a quickening of life and joy, the other a plague of sickness and death. It is the same Power at work; only how, where, and to what degree the energy is directed is different. A Witch needs to be fearless in hir relationship with Power, and s/he needs to be impeccable in hir dedication to inner Balance. Hir duty is to hold the Scalpel of Will with reverence and understanding. We should demand nothing less of our Selves.
I am the thunder in Heaven,
The lightning my semen and seed;
I remember old wrongs unforgiven,
In me is the voice of your need.
—-Victor Anderson, Light-Bringer
(Art: Goddess Cybele by Andrew King)