Chaos Magickianís approach to practical Green Magic
(Originally published in White Dragon at Imbolc 1998. Copied with permission from the White Dragon website.)
I expect most readers of White Dragon would class themselves, in some respects at least, as Pagan. Of them, a proportion will see paganism as not just a trendy New Age religion, but as a magickal path. And of those, a few will be brave enough to use their magick to aim for 'real world' results and change. It is to these few that this article is aimed.
This is about 'doing' magick - not just wishy washy adoration to some genderised construct, but making use of a real power that can be accessed by those brave few who are willing to cross the line, risk all, be an 'outsider' for what they feel is right, to fight political battles against the forces of Corporate power that would pave the planet.
To do magick will change a person; they will view the world through eyes that see beyond the crushing dullness of scientific reductionism. This personal metamorphosis can be distressing for those who knew the 'old person' and can be the cause of sorrow for those undertaking such a path. Magick is not an easy option, it's not a safe haven for those who can't cope with the 'real world'. Magick causes change, and people find change threatening. A writer on magick I respect once called this, 'change-causing-sorrows', the Gehenna syndrome. You have been warned.
Before discussing the 'nuts and bolts' of political and environmental magick one might ask why do it? The answer to this is simple; it's the only battlefield where your opposition will be totally powerless (for the most part anyway) and unable to effectively counter your actions.
When, as I have, one fights ecological causes 'by the book', in other words, speaking at public enquires, pressing government via the ballot box for change, one is always at a disadvantage because you are playing by 'their' rules, rules formulated to diminish any impact your argument may have no matter how right your point of view is or how just your cause. You only have to attend a public enquiry for, say a new building proposal, to see how the system of Legal Council and Barristers that will be deployed makes the 'ordinary person' ineffective, overcome as they are, by the intimidating nature of the system and the mind-bending rules and double speak that is the law in the UK, not to mention the truly awesome 'paper chase' that they will inundate you with.
This is not by chance, it is set up to discourage the 'man in the street' from participating in 'their' system or getting his hands on the levers of power. Also, there is the sad fact that the amount of justice you can have is proportional to how much you can buy, if like most magicians, you tend to be wealthy in the true sense of the word, but short of cash, the amount of justice you will be allowed to have is very little indeed when compared to the large Corporate interests that an environmental magician is liable to be facing at a Hearing or Tribunal.
So let, 'them' fight their battles in the Courts, this ground is lost and not worth the effort it would take to win back. Besides, think how much time and energy you will waste trying to play by rules formulated to make you fail. This post-modern age is one of spiritual anarchy, this area is your battle ground, be strange, be unpredictable, use magick!
Another option you might have considered is so called, Non Violent Direct Action (NVDA). While this can be a thorn in the side of builders and big business, with the way the Law is structured following the Criminal Justice Act they will always have the power to do, more or less, whatever it takes to remove protesters from the site of any development. NVDA can only be at best a last ditch delaying tactic. Direct action magick is (unless you choose otherwise) invisible, effective, in that it works both to boost the morale of campaigners and forces the hand of chance in your favour. An amusing blend of NVDA and magick is 'Erisian Terrorism', such as applying for outline planning permission on the car parks of some Corporate Evil who are bent on eco destruction, any stupid but fun actions can be classed as Erisian Terrorism and should be encouraged to the full.
There is a long tradition of people using magick for 'political' uses. Most people are familiar with the story of how a coven of witches performed a ritual on the cliffs of Dover (or in the New Forest, the Truth is a little fuzzy with this story) to repel the might of Hitler's army during the 39-45 war. And in modern times groups who feel 'oppressed' in some manner use their magick in order to right some injustice.
A good example of this was the, 'Pagans Against the Poll Tax' workings where 'cursing' sigils were drawn on the back of poll tax payment slips when payments were been made, this was a variation of the old witchcraft idea of 'passing the runes' to the person being cursed, in this case no one person was targeted but the system itself, a much more effective way of working.
If you bring down one person she will only be replaced with another who will, most likely, maintain the status quo. If the system itself is brought down there is a very good chance that the organised opposition will shape its replacement, just make sure you shape the opposition in some manner.
An overlay of the modern belief that computer systems are magick sensitive and are therefore 'easy' curse targets made this an empowering operation and indeed the poll tax system was defeated. Magick was the only real way people could fight back against a Government run by Mrs Thatcher that would brook no opposition from any quarter as the miners and 'peace convoy' found out to their cost.
Using magick as an expression of opposition to injustice and in an attempt to prevent ecological damage is a valid use of Power, one that more and more people are becoming interested in. The ideas and techniques outlined below are suitable for a solo worker or a number of people in a group, they are just ideas, there is no need to follow them sheep like but they should spark off a number of applications you can think of yourself. The most important thing is to just do it! And to remember magick works.
So how can you deploy Magick to aid your personal campaign? An obvious first point would be, do you have any prior magickal experience? If the answer is, "no" a good point to start would be to read some books like Practical Sigil Magick, by Fra U.D, and Condensed Chaos by (ex Pagan News editor) Phil Hine. [See LINKS].
Don't be put off by the chaos magick outlook of these books, they offer good solid, practical advice for a newcomer, and most importantly of all, the systems and techniques in these books are usable and work (magick works! Don't forget that!). Don't close your eyes to good ideas, you don't have to 'buy in' to the philosophy in order to make use of their ideas about practical sorcery.
If you just can't bring yourself to read a 'chaos magick' book just in case you start to sport black clothing and listening to 'Death in June' records, try finding some of the works by the late Rich Westwood, his more 'shamanic' approach, while lacking the 'blood and thunder' of a number of works on sorcery is no less effective when worked at, and contains some good ideas of how to raise political awareness in a community and to 'feel the Land'.
It goes without saying that, Dreaming the Dark and Spiral Dance by Starhawk should be read by anyone interested in political issues and any magical interactions between politics and environmentalism.
Good advice I was once given on a similar subject was, use what works, reject that which does not.
Once armed with an idea of how to work results magick it's time to deploy them in your first act of ecological sorcery. At this point there is little reason to make life hard for yourself, so when you pick your target and your aimed for result make them realistic. You will not be able to bring down Tarmac road builders for example, but you can hope to sway an enquiry or make Planners choose another route for a road. There has to be a 'mundane' channel for the magick to work through, this is the best way I know of to ensure your magick as the greatest chance of working as you intended in the first place. Keep your options open and many, look for omens that seem to indicate when the time is right and what actions should be considered. Above all listen to your inner voice, this will always warn you if you are being stupid or placing yourself in personal danger.
Here is a three point plan of action you might like to use as a guide. An underlying concept to all of this is, 'think Globally, act Locally'. Your actions, no matter how small, will filter out to effect the whole system of the planet; this may take some time though.
Let us take these a point at a time.
1. Intended outcome.
Using well formed outcomes may seem an awful lot of work just to word a spell but I feel it's worth it. You need to be SURE about what you want and how much you want it if there is to be any chance of your sorcery working in the way you wish. There is little point in enchanting for 'something'; more so if you are unsure about just what that 'something' is and how much you want it. Would there be any chance of success for example if you were to work a spell for, 'the banning of private use of the internal combustion engine' if, deep down, you enjoy the freedom of movement and the comfort and ease of travel using your car?
Point 2, your target.
I do know of one case where a person was targeted for magical assault as he was seen as the prime mover of the ecological threat. This person was sent a number of 'curse objects' via the post and was confronted on a local radio 'phone-in' programme by some of the group, though he did not know that the people he was talking to were the same individuals who were sending him weird stuff in his mail. One member of the ritual magick group that was fighting his development plans even went so far as getting a job as a contract cleaner at the offices of his Company so she could leave sigils and other 'bad vibes' in his office. But did it work? Well, in this case the person 'targeted' was suddenly at the centre of a corruption scandal that forced him to resign as Chief Executive of his Company and the replacement changed the development plans to ones far more benign....
Workings like this are very risky when it come to the possible legal consequences of the actions people might take. It would be too easy for things to get out of control real fast which could result in people finding them looking at the sharp end of British Justice. Because of the risks involved I would not advise these type of actions being taken.
Point 3. Using sorcery
It's worth looking in some depth at ideas and options that have been used by myself and others working with magick and 'environmental' issues. Any of these could be adapted for use or they might trigger some other ideas of your own.
Use of sorcery, opens up so many avenues of possible actions that to give examples of how they work and how to do them would take a whole book (hmm, money making venture for someone). Those I have gone into below are just a few of these options, so don't limit yourself to using just these. Magick comes in many forms, not just those you would expect. A night in a Goth pub could lead to a wild, through the night, drive along other-world lanes to a freezing hill top in the Welsh borders where you work your invocations. Move as chaos takes you and always remember, magick works!
In my own magickal c.v. is an on going ten year battle to save an area of open land in Birmingham (my home town).
I came to be interested in this site in a way that might apply to any number of 'magick people' who like to brave the elements from time to time when working their sorcery. My first contact with the land was made when I was searching for any private outdoor location where I could work with a good chance of being undisturbed. When I found a spot I felt was 'right' I used to go there most days and spend a number of hours just sitting about under the trees enjoying the sunshine and bird song. After some time I felt it might make the place look 'nicer' if I was to bag up and remove some of the rubbish that people had dumped over the years. In a short time I was working almost daily on some aspect of, 'site improvement' work, which soon had my friends press-ganged into helping me with.
As I spent more and more of my free time 'caring' for the land I began to have an affinity with the site, I could in some strange way, 'feel' it's moods and how weather and time of day would change how the land felt and how I felt about being there. At this point I had not thought of this as in any way being 'magical' until I was talking to a friend about what I was up to who said, I seem to have contacted the spirit of the place and had got into a relationship with it. This was one of those 'click' moments where things suddenly become clear, as soon as I heard those words my whole relationship with the site changed from one where it was a handy spot for outdoor magick, to a real and deep communication with an intelligence that was alien yet had no feel of menace about it. By pure accident I had done what any number of magicians try but fail to do, evoke and interact with a spirit.
This meeting with the spirit of a place is a powerful starting point from which to engage in magick of an environmental nature. When a site is no longer 'just' an open green bit of land, but rather a place that you feel a deep and real connection to, it gives a strong emotional kick to overcome any threat to the site. Getting to know and understand a site to the point where contact is made with its 'spirit' opens up many ideas and paths of action that tend not to occur if you are just walking onto any old bit of green land that some bozo wants to run a motor way through.
Few people will have 'their' own bit of land they wish to protect, most I suspect will rather be joining forces in a campaign to save a local or National beauty spot. But the way I got to know a site could work just as well in a case where you read in your local newspaper of some proposal you object to. In the same way I spent time on the land, visiting it at all times of day and in all weathers any magician could do the same. Spending a night on the site (as I did once) is a dislocating and scary thing to do if you are used to living in the man-made urban environment, but boosted by some form of personal evocation ritual a link should be formed.
While there are any number of magical workings that can be undertaken when a person has formed a relationship with a spirit of a place, one way I used to help protect 'my' site was to invisage the site spirit as being a kind of gestalt of all the living creatures on the land. I had to the idea of empowering, or in some way making the local spirit stronger to enable the land in effect, to look after itself more.
The way I did this was during the waxing of the moon I baked a 'cake'. Then on the night of the full moon I took the cake to the site where I did an evocation of the spirit, so it could see and understand what I was doing, I then sigilised the cake by carving a rune of protection and personal power into it while in a mild trance induced by drumming and the ingestion of weak psychoactive plant sacraments. (The idea was to do magick, not get stoned or trip out!)
In this heightened magical state of mind I walked around the site dropping some of the cake here and there so that birds and other animals that my mind had formed into the genius loci could eat the crumbs and there by gain more 'power' by feeding of this magical food that I had created. It would be easy to expand on these sort of ritual workings to give the site some form of magical self defence.
An idea that others have used with some indication of its being effective is the creation of a 'thought form' or servitor, who's job is to protect some given location. This could be created in a group situation by a guided visualisation or Pathworking where the group travels to some other world realm, meets a spirit who seems able to do the job (or one is built up from attributes the group feels would be useful) and then brought back and sent about its business.
A servitor made this way could help protect some area of land, or a more specific thing like a rare birds nest by scaring off intruders or acting as a kind of astral early warning system to alert the group if some kind of unwanted person or event is active against that which the servitor is protecting.
This kind of spirit magick is handy as it fits into whatever paradigm the group is working inside, be it wiccan, Witchcraft, or some form of git 'ard chaos magick. And don't forget, it works too.
An interesting and unusual way of working magick towards an environmental end is the use of the mythos of the Great Old Ones of H.P. Lovecraft. When Lovecraft wrote his weird fiction back in the 1920's he seems to have, by pure chance, (?) tapped into an age old idea that haunts the minds of men; that is the idea that there are wild uncontrollable intelligent forces at work in the Universe, some of which take a deep and unhealthy interest in the affairs of the Earth and of the people who inhabit it.
In vivid and disturbed dreams Lovecraft saw wild hill-top rites performed by 'degenerate' i.e. lower class and foreign people, who's evil and debased (as he thought of it) rituals aimed for the return of these wild and untrammelled powers to once again claim the Earth as theirs. While all this might be interesting is it of any use in 'green' magick?
At first sight maybe not, but look deeper and maybe the ideas of 'wild hill-top rites' and the personification of the forces of nature as pure and ancient powers who wish to 'regain' what was theirs could be a focus for a working. It has been noted else where that most western magick has a very, 'indoors' feel about, whereas the mythos is all about wild nature.
In one of the mythos tales Lovecraft writes of the Great Old Ones, "..the wind gibbers with their voices and the earth mutters with their consciousness." This is very evocative stuff and might be an ideal starting point for those of a Darker disposition who want to work in the area of 'green' magick.
If you meditate on this as a possible route of action who knows what you will find, not dead but dreaming, on the site of that major building proposal...
It is almost always worth thinking about getting others in on the magical act and working rituals on 'your' site. The more people who start to form links into a situation gives the campaign a boost. If the object of your attention seems like it could benefit from the involvement of others it is not too hard to form a web of groups and individuals who are working towards the same goal.
Large campaigns seem to attract more and more people into wanting to help. The fight to save Wychbury Hill Iron Age hill fort and woods near Birmingham is a near classic example of this. What started out as just a few locals upset at a bypass route option, ended up with most of the Pagans and other magick folks of Birmingham and the West Midlands doing rituals of protect on the hill at some time or other. And the outcome? Bypass idea scraped (magick works!)
While it is a good idea to raise some power in the form of 'mass' involvement, try to avoid people who want to do rituals for the television. This almost always turns out to be a bad idea. The media will use you as a 'joke' item at the end of the local news programme, and no matter how genuine you or your group are, you will seem like fools to those watching at home, and so will your campaign.
I can remember one example where just that happened. To save them further embarrassment I won't go into detail, its enough to say that a group of well-minded pagans set out to do a ritual to protect an area of land from builders. The local television station was invited to film the ritual on the understanding that it would be made clear that it was a protection rite. When the film was broadcast it was billed as 'local witches curse landowner' and the editing made the rite and those doing it look like total fools.
If you want to get media support have some 'front' organisation who seem like mundane environmentalists to act as your media contacts and don't mention the weird stuff you are doing. Your 'front' organisation can deal with the local press or TV station while the real work, i.e. the magick, goes on unseen in true 'occult' fashion.
To get people helping you need to get the word out about what you are doing and raise the awareness of the kind of people you want to help you. A classic way this was done was, 'Heal the Earth' [See Phil Hines' article in the Dragon Journal #1 (ed.)]. This was a title of a mass energy raising, the aim of which was to widen and increase the awareness in the minds of people of the global ecological crisis.
The time set for this was the Summer Solstice between the hours of 12-2 PM in June 1987. This event was publicised in many of the 'underground' and pagan magazines that were around then. Many people who 'did there bit' felt they were linking into a group mind that had the power to make people listen and take note.
It would be easy to use this idea in almost any green battle you want to fight. Create a bind-rune or sigil as a focus for people, DTP a 'flyer' with some info about who you are and what you are aiming to achieve, send this to pagan mags (such as this one), get your local 'hippie shop' to stick it on their wall (where are you Prince Elric when we need you?). Aim to get as many people as possible doing 'something' to empower your sigil at the same time and date and with luck it will work.
You will also have informed lots of people about your concern and there is a good chance some will live near enough to want to help out more with the campaign. There are a thousand and one other things you could do, but the most important and the hardest, is to get from in front of the TV and do them. This should have given you a few pointers in the right direction, the book list below contains many more ideas and ways of working that you could use. Just do it.