The Ritual Magic Workbook
A Practical Course of Self-Initiation
Samuel Weiser, Inc.
York Beach, Maine
First published in 1998 by Samuel Weiser, Inc.
Box 612 York Beach, ME 03910-0612
Copyright ? 1986 Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by
any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from Samuel
Weiser, Inc. Reviewers may quote brief pasages.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
The ritual magic workbook : a practical course of self-initiation / Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
Originally published: London: Aquarian Press, 1986. Includes index. ISBN 1-57863-045-2 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Magic. 2. Ritual. I. Title. BF1623.R6A845 1998
Printed in the United States of America BJ
99 01 03 05 04 02 00 98
2468 10 97531
The paper used in this publication meets all the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials Z39.48-1984.
To Olive Ashcroft — with much love and gratitude for many years of loving friendship and loyalty.
More than most, writers need the backup of other people. They provide encouragement, endless cups of coffee, and a willing ear when you hit the inevitable dry period and nothing you put down on paper looks or reads the way you see it in your head. Without the following friends and relations my life would be a lot harder.
My husband Michael and Sonia Hackwell who took much of the office work off my hands and gave me time to write. Emily Peach and Alan Richardson who listened with untiring ears to my ideas, even the wildest of them, and kept my spirits up when I thought it would never get done. Anne, Laurel, Cathy, Raffi, Jamie, Gordon and Sheila in Sydney who tried out the material, and survived!
Gary Farmer who came up with some beautiful incense recipes and allowed me to use some of them. Mike Herivel, Nick and Chris who keep my Apple II going and always have a smile even when I call them out and the darned thing starts to work the moment they walk into the office! Last, but never least, to Simon Franklin whose friendship and encouragement spurs me on to try a little harder each time. Thank you.
You are holding in your hands the best practical introduction to the art of magic ever published. Not 'one of the best' or 'arguably the best' or 'possibly the best', but simply the best. It is lucid, down to earth, well structured, accurate and easy to understand. It is a superb tool for the individual who wants to understand what magic is all about not in theory, but in practice.
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, who wrote the book, is an experienced ritual magician and head of a world-wide esoteric fraternity/sorority. In the very earliest lessons she will force you to discuss your motivations for magical study; and she warns, as others have warned before her, that you should not undertake the work laid out in this book if you are depressed; nor should you mix magical training with drugs like mescaline, or lsd, or even pot.
You will want to know why. And here I think I may be able to help you. When I was even younger than I am today, I drove a horse and cart through those three warnings. I was attracted to magical study without much insight into my real motivations. I began work in a depressed state. And on one curious social occasion during training,
I smoked cannabis. Since there is always considerable entertainment in someone else's misfortune, let me describe what happened. Then let me tell you something you will probably not be able to find elsewhere: the reason why it happened.
First, the question of motivation. We all do things for the best possible motives, of course; and nowhere more so than in the esoteric arts. It
is relatively easy to discover that the only really acceptable excuse for magical study is embodied in the statement I desire to know in order to serve. That was the answer I was prompted to give to the ritual question during my own initiation. I dutifully gave it; and it was a lie.
What actually attracted me to magic was not service but power. Nothing grandiose, of course. I had no burning ambition to rule the world or enslave hordes of beautiful women. (Well, maybe just one or two beautiful women...) But I was undoubtedly a prey to a disease which is becoming even more prevalent with the increasing complexity of modern society: a feeling of helplessness.
There are many reactions to such a feeling. Some people embrace political credos. Others get religion. A few (usually male) take to beating their spouses. I turned to magic, which seemed to me to be the ultimate antidote: for what is magic if not a secret system which promises control of damn near everything?
You will be desolate to learn it did not work. Although I spent some nine years in daily Qabalistic training and learned a great deal in the process, I remained Clark Kent: no amount of magical leaps into ritual phone boxes could turn me into Superman.
Because I did not recognize my motivations at the outset (for while my pledge of service was a lie, I did not know that either at the time) I was driven to ignore the warning on depression. I began formal training while at a low ebb, emotionally and mentally. It was the sort of mood swing I had been through before and I thought little of it. Such moods inevitably passed over, usually quite quickly. This one did not. A few months into my initial magical training I had my first full nervous breakdown, which was mercifully brief. A year and a half later, I had my second, which was not. I was soon under psychiatric care, wondering whether to mention magic to my shrink, or whether news of what I had been up to would persuade him to refer me to the funny farm. In the end, I played down my esoteric involvement and we decided between us that my problem was Oedipal. I now know it was nothing of the sort, but more of that presently.
The problem with arrogance is that it is a quality for which I have a sneaking admiration. Consequently it plays a greater part in my character than it really should. A few years into my training, when the worst of the psychiatric symptoms had died down, I decided I knew enough to make up my own mind about matters like psychedelic substances. In those prehistoric days, they were, thank God, a great deal more difficult to come by than they are now and since I had no source for mescaline or LSD, I was forced to settle for cannabis. I expected a relaxed and pleasant experience. What I got was a nightmare. I was dragged from my body and hurled in and out of reality in a horrid slow
pulse rhythm which, subjectively, went on forever. My spacial perceptions were so distorted I was unable to move unaided. I did not know where I was and my thought patterns were brutally disrupted. Objectively, the experience lasted more than seven hours. All on a single joint!
I have no doubt any reader with experience of such things will consider the above description grossly exaggerated or outright fiction. Or, more charitably, that I was smoking something other than cannabis. Pot simply does not affect people this way, as even the most fervent anti-drug campaigner will reluctantly confirm. But that's the way it affected me — and continues to affect me even now. God knows what I would be like on harder drugs: I have never tried them. Nor have I tried pot since. I even stopped taking alcohol.
Experience is a great teacher, but it only teaches you the What, not the Why. Why should esoteric training increase depression to such an extent that it will push you over the edge into neurotic breakdown; Why should it change one's reaction to drugs to such a ludicrous degree? (I am no advocate of drug usage, but I do recognize that the vast majority of pot smokers do not go through what I did.)
The answer to both these questions lies in the structure of the human body — specifically, the part of the structure which falls under the heading of Esoteric Anatomy.
Interlocked with your purely physical systems, which are superbly well charted by Western medicine, is a further highly complicated system of energy flows which are not terribly well understood in the West, but which have been studied and categorized in the Orient for millenia — especially in India and China. In the former, the study was integrated into Yoga. In the latter, it produced the medical techniques of acupuncture and moxibustion.
I find the details of this energy system quite fascinating and could bore you with them for several hundred pages given the slightest encouragement. But realistically, all you need to know at this point is that:
1. The energy system exists.
2. It is intimately linked with (among other things) the endocrine system.
3. It is capable of manipulation. Most systems of esoteric training will sooner or later introduce you to breath control, visualization and meditation. All three profoundly affect the energy system. I want to be clear about this: many occult visualization exercises and most occult breathing exercises are specifically designed to influence the energy system. But even those which are not, tend to influence it anyway.
The most common result is simple stimulation. More energy is drawn into
the system and consequently more energy flows through it. This is generally quite good news, but not always. I've already mentioned that the energy system is intimately linked with various physical systems. This is the reason why an acupuncture needle
in your little finger can influence the function of your heart: the needle is controlling a portion of the energy flow which, in turn, is linked to your internal organs. It is the linkage with the endocrine system which can cause trouble if you are depressed.
Your endocrine system is an interdependent series of tiny factories continually releasing all sorts of chemical messengers into your bloodstream. These messengers tell your heart when to beat, aid your digestion, control your blood pressure and, as any doctor will confirm, profoundly influence your mental and emotional state at any given time. Endocrine imbalance can lead to depression, a fact well known to the medical profession which habitually uses chemical messengers of its own as treatment. But what is all too often forgotten is that the reverse is also true. A state of depression with purely psychological origins can nonetheless lead to endocrine imbalance.
All this is getting rather technical and I apologise for that. What it really means is that if your glands are upset, you will get depressed; and if you are depressed, your glands will get upset. Whichever of these two very similar states you happen to be in, any blanket stimulation of your glandular system is bad news. It will inevitably make the depression worse; and in some cases it will make it very much worse. In my own case, I ended up with an endocrine system so screwed up that I tilted over into nervous breakdown.
The action of psychedelic drugs (even mild psychedelics like cannabis) on the energy system produces results even more directly. If you study the theory of Hindu Yoga, you will find a strong tradition that at a certain stage on the road to ultimate Enlightenment, the Yogi often develops 'powers' —
interesting psychical abilities like telepathy or trancelike changes of consciousness. Here again the energy system is involved, for as it strengthens with Yoga practice and as the energy flows come to conform more and more with the yogic ideal, so the practitioner's mind undergoes a change. For the energy system is linked in two directions — to the
physical, as we have already seen, and directly to the psychological. Once you begin occult training, you begin, almost immediately, to change your own energy system. If you then add to the change by ingesting psychedelics, it is remarkably easy to create a temporary situation analogous to blowing a fuse. It's all a little like those medical warnings about not mixing alcohol with certain medications. Either one on its own is okay, but the two together interact in a way that can be downright lethal.
The further you progress with your esoteric training, the greater this problem becomes. Highly trained adepts in the arts tend, you will find, to treat all drugs with considerable caution, including medical staples like aspirin and socially accepted drugs like nicotine and alcohol. It isn't necessarily that they dislike their source; it's just that they can't really handle it any more.
And having gotten all that off my chest, I now feel happier about placing Dolores' book in your anxious hands. Just follow the safety instructions and you'll be fine.
The best and safest way to learn the art of Ritual Magic is to enter a school of good repute and work under the tuition of someone who is a practising magician. From the point of view of the schools involved applicants usually fall into one of three categories:
1. Those who have become addicted to the excruciatingly bad 'occult' videos increasingly offered as the 'real thing', and who think they can become an Adept overnight. They become glamoured by the idea of casting circles, waving magical swords and dashing into disused churches to confound the Forces of Darkness, crucifix in hand, and armed with a few vital sentences from a long lost ritual found by accident in the archives of the British Museum.
2. Those who have hovered about on the edge of the occult for sometime and have decided it is time to 'dip a toe into the water'. 3. Those who are drawn to the Mysteries almost against their will and who find their way by trial and error to the right door.
Seventy per cent of the first group will get tired of the whole thing as soon as they realize that it can take as long as ten years to get halfway to being an Adept, and requires a long, hard and disciplined training. If by any strange chance fate throws a real psychic event their way, it merely hastens their departure. Another ten per cent will leave having acquired some idea of occult terminology and training and on the basis of this will attempt to set up their own Magical Order. Because the training has not been fully realized on all levels, the Order runs on momentum alone. It has little or no actual contact with the Inner Levels and they will achieve very little. The members will become involved with the outward trappings of ritual, believing that to be the important thing. But any inner contact they may have had to begin with, is lost while they try to decide how many bows should be made to the East, how many circles each officer must make before taking his or her seat, and getting upset when they are not allotted the office they coveted. The entire thing becomes an excuse to dress up, feel important and, above all enter a
'secret' organization. The need to feel that they have something no one else knows about is paramount, but it is a false secrecy. Most Orders have an Outer Court that is more or less public, but their inner levels are held apart. The secrecy that is the hallmark of a false Order is a need to almost, but not quite, let others know what they are missing. If no one has even an inkling of what they are about, much of the 'fun' goes out of the whole affair for them.
A further five per cent, when the first fine careless rapture has worn off, will see opportunities for making money. Then you get the rip offs, the 'you too can become a magician in three months', just 200.00 down and another 50.00 a month. After that a higher grade is offered with a more resounding title, for another 200.00. Unfortunately being part of the occult world does not automatically make you a better person. That leaves the last fifteen per cent, of these ten per cent may see it through against all odds, they will suddenly realize the falsity of their previous assumptions and retrace their steps, this time with a sincere desire to succeed. They will bring to their work understanding and compassion and will invariably become teachers in their turn. The last five per cent will turn to the darker side of the occult, and there is a darker side. Drugs, alcohol and perversion will drag them under. Sometimes they can be rescued, there are Lodges whose task it is to look for such people and attempt to redeem them, they are a special breed of occultist with a courage and faith that can and does take them into the corridors of Hell in search of the lost ones.
In the second group the percentage of genuine students will be much higher. Through their reading and research they will already have a good idea of what to expect and the great majority of them will win through the first crucial year. Some will inevitably return to the safer, more comfortable pastime of being an 'armchair occultist'. The third group will win through against all odds. They are the born magicians who, in past lives have already served their apprenticeship and are now returning to take the higher grades. With each life they aspire higher and higher until the final choice is made, either to go on into other realms and dimensions learning all the time, or to turn back and help those who are still journeying. Such become 'The Masters'. This book is for the determined ones of the first and second groups, to help them understand what can and cannot be done in ritual magic when working without a personal tutor, or within the protective egregore of a contacted school. As I have said, the best way is to be taught by a personal teacher. Failing that a book written with the pitfalls in mind, one that tries to explain what is needed within oneself to become a magician, and moreover that provides basic bread and butter knowledge with enough ritual jam to make it palatable, is the next best thing. This book will not make you an initiate, it will not even make
you an expert magician. It will keep you from making costly mistakes, and give you a basis upon which you may build further, in time. Within these pages you will find a complete year's work taking you from the first preparations of yourself as a magician, to real ritual work. Along the way you will learn a little, a very little, from many and varied studies, things that you would undertake in depth if working in ideal conditions. You will learn to work with your hands as well as your mind, with your heart as well as your intuition. If you take each section and work through it carefully there is no reason why, at the end of the year you should not be able to construct, perform and control the effects of simple rituals, control being the most important part!
If you are looking for instant magic, forget it! Work, hard work, is the only thing that will help you to achieve your goal. If you want it badly enough you will do the work. It is as simple as that. You get what you work for.
The training that follows is meant primarily for the solo magician, but I have given adaptations in the rituals for up to five people, that being the ideal number for many reasons, some of which I will explain later. Do not use the book to try and train a whole group. Training a large group needs a lot of know-how, a lot more than you can learn in a year. If that fails to sway you remember this, according to an ancient tradition a teacher takes on a part of any Karma incurred by those he or she teaches, and an ill controlled group can incur a lot of Karma. Being a teacher in the occult sense has its drawbacks. If two or three of you wish to work together as a group in the future, then each one should work individually through the year of preparation as set down in this book. Then you will start off with a great advantage, three people who know what they are doing and what to expect from ritual work.
If you work as a pair or as a threesome, it must be a mixed group. A pair must be a male and female, in the case of three, one man and two women, or one woman and two men. In this way the vital polarities are kept balanced, this is of great importance in ritual work and in the training that preceeds it.
If you are in poor physical health, do not attempt to start this training until you are well again. If you are suffering from depression, do not start at all, occult work can increase certain types of depressive illness. If you are taking what are referred to as social drugs, i.e. cannabis, LSD, etc., this book is not for you. You need your full wits about you when working magic, and when, as it will, inner level power starts to work through the psyche, you will need to have your full health and strength to cope with it.
There will be a great temptation to start on the rituals right away,
and to leave the preparatory work untouched, even unread; that is up to you. You will be the one who will lose by doing so. Some of you will realize this and will proceed as instructed, some will go ahead and make their mistakes and then turn back and start again. Some will ignore any advice I may give, though that will not deter me from giving it anyway. Those who make it through to the end of the year have the makings of a magician in them. They will have touched the indefinable and tasted the excitement of being in control (well almost) of their inner universe; after that life can never be the same.
Learn from the beginning to keep your own counsel, persecution has more subtle guises than the rack and the stake these days. If your tastes run to walking the streets in a flowing cloak and a broad brimmed hat, and wearing a ring the size of a hen's egg, you will find yourself in some predictably bizarre situations. Learn and meditate upon the magician's maxim.
To Dare, To Will, To Know, To Keep Silent.
Couple this with the two attributes that
all true magicians strive to bring to perfection in themselves, Discretion and Discrimination. To imprint these six important rules on your conscious and subconscious minds, your first instruction, before you even turn the next page (is your determination strong enough?) get a pen and paper and draw an' equal-sided triangle with the apex pointing up. Now superimpose on it another triangle pointing down. You should now have a six pointed star. Write your name in the centre, and in each of the 'points' write one of the six injunctions above. Cut the paper into a suitable shape and use it as a book mark for the next year, replacing it when it wears out. (See figure 1)
(Figure 1 is inserted here)
For the next six months, providing you have the determination, and the stamina, you should regard yourself as a novice, one who is applying for entry into a Mystery School on the Inner Planes. If you get past the first six months without giving up (or cheating on the lessons), then you may regard yourself as a neophyte, one who has been accepted for serious training. It is
important that you build this idea into your mind at the conscious and subconscious levels every day until it is accepted as a fact. As there is nothing like throwing you in at the deep end, you can start right now. Read the following instructions two or three times, then put the book aside and create these images in your mind's eye, rather like a day-dream, with as much attention to detail as you can. Don't if you are taking this book seriously, read any further until you have completed
the next set of instructions. If you are a verbalizer rather than an imagemaker, keep reading the instructions until they are acceptable to you as fact.
Create an image of yourself, at any age you feel appropriate, dressed in a simple white tunic of thin wool, reaching to the knee for a man, to the ankle for a woman. At the waist is a twisted cord, also white, and you wear simple leather sandals. For the moment you will be known by your own name for you have not yet earned a Magical Name. Get the figure of yourself clear in your mind's eye before going further. You are one of a group of applicants standing before the steps of an ancient Mystery School. You are waiting to find out if you have been accepted into the Temple as a novice. The building of white stone gleams in the sun and a flight of steps leads up to the impressive entrance. On the top step waits the High Priest of the Temple and beside him the High Priestess. Both wear long cloaks that sweep the ground, blue and gold for the High Priest, black and silver for the High Priestess. As they step forward all talking among the candidates ceases and you crowd forward. The High Priest steps forward with a papyrus scroll in his hand. He begins to read out the names of those who have been accepted as novices. Your name is the last on the list, you have been given a chance to prove your worth, try to use it well.
With the others who have been selected you walk up the steps and with the High Priest and Priestess going before you, the little group enters the cool dim interior of the great temple.
You are in a large circular hall roofed with a dome upheld by many pillars of marble, alternately black and white. The floor is also of white marble but set into it is a labyrinthine pattern laid out in black mosaic. At the very centre of this intricate maze stands the altar, a double cube of black marble, and on it a chalice of blue crystal that gleams in a single shaft of sunlight that lances down from an opening in the dome above.
All those who wish to study the Mysteries must come of their own free will to the Inner Temple. Without this offer of self, freely given and as freely accepted, no further step may be taken. Now is the time to think about this book and what it offers, is it what you really want? Can you offer your best efforts for a whole year knowing that sometimes you will fail as well as succeed? Or do you wish to retrace your steps and offer your place to one of the others still waiting outside? Think about your reasons for being here, are they genuine or are they the result of self glamour fed by the fantasies of an uncontrolled mind? Before you make your offer of service be sure that you understand that this acceptance is for the first six months of your year's training. If you win through you will return here to renew your offer of service for another six months. After that you are free of any obligations except