The training of a Witch involves the study and practice of magic, but let us make it clear that magic in the common sense has nothing to do with Traditional Witchcraft or being a Witch. “Magic” is actually a much misused word under which we tend to file any process we do not understand. For example, an airplane is awesome magic to a superstitious savage in the jungle, but to us, it is a case of straight-forward aerodynamics. A Witch does not harbor superstitions. To a Witch there really is no “magic” at all. There is the certainty of the way things are. Ironically, this idea comes close to the original meaning of the word Magic. It comes from the Persian word “magia” meaning “Wisdom” or “seeing things as they really are.” In training to be Wise (The Traditional meaning of the word Wicca), one undertakes the study of the way things really are, and this seems at first like magic, because of its profound simplicity and its marvelous beauty. It is here that one learns the techniques to know the One Organism which is the Goddess and the God together. It is here that one searches, investigates, tests and explores the nature of the Mind, both one’s own mind, and the Universal Mind, since the Traditional Wicca teach that they are inseparable.
Moreover, would-be Witches are taught that the key to all magic is the use of magical “triggers,” to trigger specific mental powers that we all have, and use daily, as the Divine Beings Incarnate that we are. These are triggers to get the Mind involved: triggers to set a goal, to fix belief, to fire enthusiasm and to establish stability. There are many different triggers available, from the twinkling of an eye to whole complex systems of words and symbols, like the Mystical Qabalah. But remember, such systems are not what Witchcraft is really about, traditionally. They are perhaps triggers or pointers to what being a Witch really means.
The training of a Witch today often does involve the study of the Hebrew Qabalah among other things. This might seem to be a digression from traditional Witchcraft, but in both an historical sense and a practical sense, it is quite the contrary.
The coming of the Christian crusades drove all who held firmly to the practice of a sound pre-Christian belief into the hills – Witch and Jew alike. This was a time of great astonishment for both the Witch and the Qabalist as they compared Iggdrasil (World Ash) with Otz Chiim (Living Tree). They must have been amazed as they saw the “Witches Ladder” of 40 knots, leading from heaven to earth, and the Qabalistic Hierarchy of 40 Names from God to Man. The Qabalists had 10 “Emanations,” the Witches, 10 aspects of the Goddess. Even visible in museums today are the similar markings on equally ancient ritual blades of the Qabalist and the Witch. Even the oldest, most holy legends of the Gods were similar enough to wonder at. This was clearly a re-establishment of a long forgotten alliance.
But the Traditional Witch makes such use and belief in the Qabalah as a Jew never could, since the Jewish religion denies even the most fundamental concepts of the Qabalah. A Traditional Witch learns the Qabalah like a language, a precise and accurate language magical language of symbols, of triggers. The Qabalah is used simply because its style is well suited to Western temperament, being deeply involved in our cultural roots, and because it is complete, easy to use, and precise enough for the intellect. It is also easier to learn owing to the bulk of published literature on the subject. The most important and practical reason for learning the Qabalah, though, is in preparation for the use of Wicca’s own traditional magical system which could seem overly alien and complex to someone inexperienced with a magical language, without a working frame-of-reference with which to explore. With a properly structured magical language, there is no more guess-work, none of the uncertain vagueness that usually obscures the mystical and the occult. The, one begins to really see what an amazingly magical and awesome thing the whole of Creation really is, without the clouds of uncertainty and ignorance blocking the view.
Generally, one studies and practices for one year before being accepted for initiation. In that year, one is expected to acquire a firm acquaintance with the Mystical Qabalah1 and to practice various techniques for strengthening and exploring some basic mental abilities. This means almost constant thought and research on the subject, and at least one half hour of earnest practice each day. With this solid grounding, one begins his course through the Three Degrees of the Wicca.
1Although salted with the authors personal views and prejudices, “The Mystical Qabalah” by Dion fortune offers a comprehensive introduction to the system. Earnest Benn Ltd. 25 New Street Square, London EC4 3JA.