I’ll tell your three stories. One’s about a success. One’s about a big failure. And the last one is weird, but it taught me something about magick that I’ll never forget.
It’s fun telling people about amazing magickal results, and it’s so tempting to do that and share some of the big successes. But if we told the truth and bragged about that all the time, you’d find it tiresome and hard to believe. We are not gurus or masters; we are people who know a fair bit about magick, and we’ve seen amazing things. We’ll let you discover your own success stories and tell you something more useful.
The three stories that follow are true, with a few identifying details changed. They all happened to me, and changed the way I work with magick. In a way, they changed my life.
I like to have fun and I’ve always been like that, which is why I’d try to make magick work by throwing out rules and ideas to see what worked. I’m more sensible now; innovation without the wrecking ball. When I was young – and I mean well under twenty – I would try just about anything, in my magickal life and my personal life. Wild times. But that made me reckless.
Being a bit obsessed with my own emotions, and how deep I thought I was, I performed a ritual to see the sum total of my life’s emotions. One thing I believe about magick is that it works best when your need is real. But sometimes, when you ask for something really stupid, magick turns up the goods anyway. And what a mistake that was. Getting a glimpse of the sum total of your life’s emotions is not pleasant. I can’t remember exactly what went on, and have no idea if it was accurate, but it was a hell of an experience, in the worst sense of the word. I developed a pretty severe anxiety disorder that took years to conquer, and I was emotionally fragile for a long time.
Magick is not dangerous if you use it wisely. If you play with it for the sake of a thrill, it can be unpleasant. I should mention that, even at that tender age, I had access to some pretty potent magick, so I wasn’t just casting a spell. It was pretty serious stuff.
The magick worked and I wish it hadn’t. What I learned is that you shouldn’t do magick for a result you don’t need. If you ever find yourself seeking these flash-bang results, it’s usually because you’re avoiding something else, something that needs dealing with. That was true for me, anyway. And after I caught a glimpse of that exploding supernova of emotion, my focus was well and truly back on who I really wanted to be and what I wanted from life. That’s a success in the end, but there are much easier ways to get what you want.
I could give you a long list of magickal failures. When we started out with magick, we relied on obscure books with less-than-accurate instructions. And we made things up as best we could, got hold of the best materials that we could, and tried to find magick that worked. In those early years, we saw enough to know that magick was real, but most of what we tried didn’t work. Partly that’s because, being teenagers, our focus was on gambling, being attractive to people we liked, and all the things we shouldn’t really have been too bothered about. If you think I sound like a very unruly young man, it is a long, long time ago, and I was from a part of England that wasn’t exactly nurturing to young people. I feel lucky that magick gave me some hope because most of my peers went from school to the local factory and that was the end of that.
But the failure I’m talking about was something more personal. I wanted magick to help me end a relationship. I’d been going out with a young woman for over a year and the relationship had become a friendship. I wanted to end it, but I cared for her and didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I now know of magick that can help to ease a relationship to its end, but back then all I could think of was magick that made her dislike me. So that’s what I tried. It didn’t work.
It didn’t work because even though my heart was in it, I was being a coward, and I think I knew that. My ritual vibrated with sympathy and empathy, so all I did was fill this woman with a mix of confused feelings. The ritual did nothing but make her suffer more confusion as the relationship came to an end.
What I learned is that if you don’t need magick, don’t use it. I should have had the confidence to know that she’d be mature enough to accept things and move on. Which turned out to be very true. When I used common sense and broke up with her in the normal way – by talking – she moved on remarkably fast after the breakup. Way faster than me. All I’d been doing was giving in to my fear and using magick to patch that up was a mistake. Magick should lead us on bold journeys, not shield us from experience.
Sometimes people are weird and yet strangely compelling. When I was still young I was tempted by the outrageous promises of an occultist who claimed to be from a secret lodge within a famous magickal order. I didn’t leave The Gallery, but I went off on my own to do a bit of exploring, thinking it would make me better and more important than anybody else. The Gallery was still quite small and I was impressionable.
One thing I’d already found is that if you put a bunch of occultists into a room, the first thing they do is argue. It wasn’t the case with The Gallery itself, even in the early days, but back then we’d meet with other occult groups (often just bunches of kids in the back room of a pub in Leeds or something), and you could feel this tension, a sort of angry simmering of opinion. Sometimes there would be curses cast, just because of disagreements. I found it all a bit weird.
Occultists should learn from politicians. That sounds really strange but when I lived in London, I went to some pubs and drinking clubs where politicians would meet, and you’d see people from both sides of the political divide sitting there with their pints, laughing and smiling. The people who’d been tearing each other apart in Parliament that afternoon were now having a friendly chat over a beer. I didn’t see how they could separate their passionate beliefs from their social lives. But they did. And that’s what occultists should do.
Many occultists bring emotions into group discussions, and everything gets defensive, with people claiming to be the best and most powerful. It’s worse when this happens through the veil of the internet, because people are more willing to bloat their apparent status. And it’s oh-so-very-silly because instead of arguing you could do a ritual together for something you want to achieve.
Even in the early days, The Gallery was fortunate to be a stable bunch, because we were friends before we were occultists, but that meant I kept quiet about this older occultist and followed him in secret, hoping I’d return with wondrous tales. Slowly and gently he tried to turn me against my friends because he claimed that his weird little coven offered so much more. It’s a long and ugly story, but what I eventually found is that he wasn’t who he said he was. He wasn’t miraculous. His insights into me were things I’d told him anyway. He had an agenda that involved making me so dependent on him that I’d give him whatever he asked for.
It felt like I was a part of something special, but I was being used. He wanted my loyalty and that was dangerous. I got out unscathed as soon as I told somebody else what was going on. From the outside, it was very clear that I’d been duped. I felt sore and stupid, but I moved on.
When Gordon Winterfield became known to us, some wanted him to be our leader. He was older, wiser, with so much more knowledge. I was now nervous and cagey around so-called wise and powerful men. But the last thing Gordon wanted was to be a leader. He wanted to learn from our young, fresh minds, so he could break through the stodgy old rules. What a wonderful man. To this day The Gallery is a round table, a group of occultists who share ideas and find consensus. Nobody’s looking to rule the world.
And so, what I learned from all that is that doing magick is more important than talking about it, or belonging to groups or following a mystical leader. Magick is bigger than The Gallery, and far bigger than any single person. We share what we know and we hope it helps. And if you ever find yourself contaminated by people who want to control you, look for the gentle cleansing magick that appears in many of the books. It can help you remain protected and centred as you come back to yourself.
Why didn’t magick protect me from that man in the first place? Because it was my decision to follow him. Life is a series of offers and rejections, and I made a wrong choice. It can happen to anybody. There were signs and omens telling me I was making a mistake, but I ignored them because of my enthusiasm for something new and exciting.
Life is complicated and mysterious but overall, wonderful, and magick is too. What we hope is that you enjoy the books, enjoy the magick, and remember that magick happens, but only if you do magick! A big part of life is about finding out who you are and what you want, and magick can help with that. You don’t need to be led there. Often, you only need to remember.
One thing that can help is divination, and although we’ve published a few rituals that cover that subject well enough for some people, we think you’ll like what’s coming. Damon Brand’s Archangel book (coming soon!) will contain a chapter on working with archangels for the purpose of divination. It’s worth buying the book just for that.
For us, 2017 has been an amazing, tranquil and inspirational year, but we hear that lots of people have had a rough time. We hope the new book will bring you the peace, prosperity and life you want.
– Adam Blackthorne.
Please note that the only published authors and public representatives of The Gallery of Magick are Damon Brand, Adam Blackthorne, Zanna Blaise and Gordon Winterfield, and we never post in groups or forums, and neither do any other members of The Gallery. (A few assistants handled email and messages over the years, but they were employees, not members!) Anybody who publicly pretends to be a personal friend, member or leader of The Gallery is telling fibs.