While I support the idea of a more open and visible esoteric presence in the mundane world there remains one aspect of the modern occult revival that continues to bother me greatly. No, it is not the bloated publishing houses who churn out poorly written handbooks professing to be a one stop shop for all your love magick needs. Nor is it the endless lamentations of the draconian initiatory orders, now thankfully in decline. My issue lies with public rituals, be they ticketed entry like those at Neopagan events or free to join via social media. Harmless fun, but carrying far too many risks to be accepted as part of our paradigm without some form of challenge.
Growing up in one of the poorest parts of London’s East End, an area that felt more like a war zone than the quiet urban neighbourhood it is slowly being gentrified to become, I learned early in life to adhere to the cardinal rule of making it through another day with all of your limbs intact: never knowingly put yourself in the firing line unless the cause is worth the possible cost to health, wealth and happiness incurred along the way. Yet this is exactly what you are doing if you decide to go along to take part in such slipshod operations. In hindsight, what do you gain from standing among strangers in the candlelight? Is it really worth the risk?
There is the very real issue of transparency, for example. You are offering up your energy to support the completion of a ritualistic operation written by someone else and headed up by little better than a face in the crowd. That person, unless irredeemably inept, is the only one who knows the true meaning behind the words being blindly chanted. As with any leader, they may not be completely honest with those who are happily skipping before them into no man’s land to play dodge the esoteric landmine. Remember, fame is no guarantee of integrity, and a background with a given group or organisation no testament to individual honesty either.
You have just as much on the line as they do when taking part, so there is no excuse to go in with your eyes closed because you follow them on Facebook or know of their work through a friend of a friend. Other issues that can arise include the possibility of the whole ritual being quietly hijacked by others in the crowd so that the energy raised can be siphoned off to feed their own occult operations. This is something that I have done in the past myself, without regrets, so I know it goes on and works surprisingly well as long as you do not get caught changing the rules of the game.
Think about it logically for a moment. If the guy next to you is utilising the power raised in your Goddess devotional to mount a magickal assault on another practitioner, and that one is under the protection of certain self initialised thought forms, it may be your energy signature that they follow back to the source. Without any proper defensive training this can prove deadly. Astral Russian roulette is not a game worth playing, no matter how inviting the group, and all the more so when you don’t really know all of the other players to begin with. And that remains the most important consideration here.
Next time you attend a public ritual, take this old magickian’s advice and stop for a couple of seconds to have a little look around the assembled crowd. Would you trust those in attendance enough to sleep with them? To share blood with them? Could you open the deepest and darkest recesses of your soul to their questioning fingertips, even if you do not truly know any of them outside of their outward appearance and social media profiles? Are you happy to risk becoming yet another victim of occult intrigue, a stepping stone on someone else’s road to ascension and so easily cast aside?
If the answer to all of the above questions is a resounding no then I advise you not to allow your essence to mingle with such strangers, and certainly never just because you want to try on ritual for size before committing to an esoteric path. The open and welcoming attitude held by most within the modern Neopagan community is refreshingly positive, true, but it can also be exploited by those with far less honest intentions. There is just too much that can go wrong on an individual level to warrant putting your etheric signature in the crosshairs for the gratification of others, regardless of the perhaps understandable desire to share in the spoils.