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Ritual Magic with the Tarot

(By SOL Second Degree Initiate Andy Cooper)

What is Ritual Magic?

Let's start with the definition of Magic. Personally I like the definition given by Dion Fortune, possibly the greatest Western occultist of the 20th Century. Her definition is "The ability to control natural forces at will." By natural forces we mean the unseen systems of stresses and strains which underpins physical existence and which affect everything which happens in our everyday lives.

We can liken this to the unseen system of forces which hold together atoms and molecules and therefore, by definition hold together everything in physical manifestation, including ourselves. The Quantum Physicist will agree that these unseen forces ultimately control the shape of things in the physical world. The Magician goes one step further and says that these unseen forces are identical with consciousness (albeit at a different level of consciousness from normal human waking consciousness) and that through raising one's own consciousness to the same level as that of the unseen realms, one can start to manipulate these unseen forces and thus create effects in the physical world around us. The Qabalah, one of the mainstays of the Western Mystery Tradition models this theory excellently.

The question is, how do you raise your consciousness to the level required and what do you do when you get there? This is essentially the core of training in any magical system. Any training worth its salt should include training of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. Or put another way, the conscious mind, the unconscious mind and the higher conscious mind or higher self.

Magical training should involve training the mind to achieve high levels of concentration over long periods of time, new thought processes and emotional clearing. Once these basics are learnt, then Ritual Magic is often the context in which the magician uses the powers of his mind to access and direct the forces of the unseen realms. Any skilled Magician should be able to perform magic in any setting without the need for robes, wands and magical circles. However these accoutrements of ritual magic assist the Magician or group of Magicians in easily accessing the correct mental and emotional state in which they can perform Magic.

Ritual Magic usually consists of the Magician or Magicians creating a special space, consecrated for the use of magic and performing ritual movements and speeches in a prescribed manner which help them to get into a meditative state and start to focus their attention inwardly rather than outside of themselves. Ritual Magic can take place in a specially consecrated temple space and include the use of incense, candles, music, wands, swords etc. or can just as effectively be done in a small sacred space created in the corner of your bedroom with a small table and a candle.

Whilst a group of well-trained Magicians working together may be using ritual to create change at the group level (for example, healing conflicts and/or people), an operation which might require high levels of mental and spiritual energy contributed from all the members of the group, working on your own in your own space can be a very effective way of creating change in your own life, whether that be to heal relationships or to create wealth, for example.

Why do Ritual Magic?

Ritual magic provides the context for the trained Magician to enter higher levels of consciousness and work magic. If we have been in a very busy office all day, or dealing with children, or visiting clients, then our minds are very focused on the external world. For us to be able to create real effects in the physical world, changing our environment, creating the relationships we want, drawing to us the people we would like to meet to assist us to move forward in our lives, then we need to create a space in which we can inwardly focus our attention and direct our energy towards achieving our desired aim. The ritual setting assists us to do this, by creating an environment which removes us from the mundane world and allows us to access the higher, spiritual realms more easily.

From a magical perspective, every human being creates their life from moment to moment. They are 100% responsible for the actions they take, the decisions they make, and the consequences that flow from those actions and decisions. For many people, who are not yet ready to accept this responsibility, the Magical Path will not be for them. For those who are able to accept this perspective, it becomes a very empowering way of being. To realise that you do, truly, create your life from moment to moment, enables you to recreate it in a different way should you choose to. You do have the power within yourself to do this. As Henry Ford once said "Whether you believe you can or you can't, you're absolutely right!" This is part of the reason why we entitled one of our workshops "Recreating the Magical Self."

So, for what purposes can we use ritual? They are many varied and include:

  • Creating abundance and wealth
  • Drawing to us people we wish to meet
  • Healing ourselves and others
  • Passing examinations
  • Creating renewed personal strength
  • To secure success in our work and business
  • Entering into communion with the unseen realms
  • For simple worship

And here we have to use a big warning. Never, under any circumstances create a ritual or a spell in order to manipulate the will of others, or to cause harm to any living person or creature. This is the first step on the left hand path of darkness and must be avoided at all costs. The true Magician believes that he can achieve in his life what he wants through his own efforts and through helping other people to get what they want; a true win/win situation. The use of manipulation or coercion, however it is cloaked, is not acceptable under any circumstances and will eventually lead to you coming face to face with an extremely unpleasant learning experience yourself, whether in this lifetime or beyond.

Why use the Tarot?

Most of what we wish to create in the physical world is actually done through our unconscious mind; that part of our mind of which we are not usually aware. This is the body mind, the source of all our emotions, thoughts and feelings. It is also the conduit through which we can communicate with our higher self. The unconscious mind does not operate in the way our conscious mind does, and needs symbols and images to communicate. If we can communicate with our unconscious mind through carefully constructed and selected symbols, we can set up the energies in the non-physical realms to support us in creating what we want in our lives.

Magical Rituals usually require a significant amount of thought, love and hard work to create. They might involve working with the archangels or the gods of a variety of pantheons and this requires a detailed knowledge of magical theory and practice. However the Tarot provides us with a ready made set of symbology and magical images that lend themselves perfectly to magical work and can communicate deeply and effectively with the unconscious mind.

The Tarot Cards are arranged so that the images make a meaningful statement to us describing what we want to achieve through performing the ritual. For example, for help in drawing out creative abilities and inspiration, we might use the following three cards:

Images of the Ancient Egyptian Tarot
Reproduced with the kind permission of the author, Mr Clive Barrett.

In this example the Moon represents the creative potential of the unconscious mind, the Star represents inspiration from the inner realms and the Magician stands for the individual's ability to realise these potentials.

These cards are then laid out on our altar during a short ritual in which we invoke the powers of the inner realms to assist us in manifesting that which we desire, that which is represented symbolically by the tarot cards we have laid out.

What do we do in Magical Ritual?

Full blown magical rituals are usually carefully scripted and involve special movements, speeches and the use of "Magical weapons" such as the wand, the sword, the chalice and the pentacle. However for our own personal use, we can create a very simple ritual with a beginning, a middle (where the actual ritual is performed) and an end which includes a closing of the ritual. A ritual can take as little as five minutes or as long as an hour. It is not true to say that the longer the ritual the more effective it is. There is one simple thing which governs the effectiveness of a magical operation, and without it the ritual will fail. This is intention.

As long as the intention is there, backed up by an emotional attachment to achieving the desired outcome, then you are more than half-way to achieving the goal of the ritual. You can use simple, readily available items such as a candle, an incense stick, perhaps a piece of coloured cloth and the Tarot Cards. This is all that is required for personal rituals to be effective and meaningful.

Use a simple opening statement to declare your outcome and request the powers of the inner realms to come to your assistance, select the appropriate Tarot Cards to represent their desired outcome and use a simple closing to end the ritual and close off your heightened levels of awareness to the inner realms. Used with a carefully chosen candle and incense you can create a very meaningful and powerful ritual that might last between ten and fifteen minutes and which you can perform in your bedroom or even if you are away in a hotel room somewhere.


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