The Spell of Flight: The Gate of Witchery
Second Stream Transvection or The Witch-Raid into Faery Via Geomantic Bonding, Fire, and Riding Pole
The Revelation of an Ancient and Essential Technique of Witchery And Spirit-Flight Taught to me by T.L. (Written on All Hallows Eve, 2006)
by Robin Artisson
No activity is more associated with Witches from the folklore of nearly every European culture than flight. The aerial “rades” or broom-rides of Witches are not merely conceits invented for modern Hollywood and consumers around Halloween time; they are based on a worldwide pattern of shamanic belief wherein animistic specialists are capable of inducing transformations that give them the power of flight. In many primal cultures, the shamanic workers can transform themselves into birds, and in others, they fly through the air on the backs of other creatures, on special magical poles or with special magical cloaks, or they simply fly alone.
The idea of shamanic spirit-flight, universal as it is, has come to be encapsulated in European folklore in the image of the broom-riding Witch. In other folklore, as well as the Witch-trials and records of clergymen from centuries past, we also hear of Witches taking to the air on the backs of horses, goats, stalks of Ragwort or other plants, pitchforks, and brooms. We hear stories from as far back as ancient Rome of Witches using special ointments to turn into Screech-Owls and fly through the air, and so forth.
The “Flight of the Witches” was not just a joyride above the night-time countryside of England or Bavaria, but a special journey whose destination was not in this world at all, but the world Unseen, the Land of the Dead, often accessed through a grave-mound/hill, stone circle, or series of hills or a mountain that was often held by the locals to be an entrance to Hell or the Underworld. Often these hills or mountains frequented by Witches on their Sabbaths were “faery” haunted or spirit-haunted, surrounded by dark or ominous legends, and steadfastly avoided by the peasantry.
This too, accords with the universal pattern of Shamanic practice worldwide: the icon of the Witch gives us an authentic European vision of a lost animistic and shamanic stream of belief and praxis. Shamans worldwide have entered the Underworld or the Unseen World and interacted with both the dead and other spiritual powers, on behalf of tribe or community, sometimes to help, and other times to harm. Shamans of traditional cultures often learn their art from contact with spiritual powers, every bit as much as many Witches were seen, folklorically, to learn their art from “The Devil”, from “Faeries”, and from “The Queen of the Elves”.
The key to Witch-flight is found in the Trance, and the items, ointments, incantations, and other special preparations that allowed for the Witch to experience the condition of mind that was liberated from the head-body complex that traps most people to the gravitational pull of the ground.
This “condition of liberation” is a function of inspired consciousness; it is part and parcel of a spiritual experience, and should not be considered a “state of mind” that can be created using strictly scientific means. This “condition of liberated mind” is not produced by trick hypnosis or by listening to rhythmic beats or noise. It is not the “alpha state” nor any other measure of brain-wave frequency so prized by modern pseudo-pagans and considered the key to “trance states”. This “condition” is a gift, a precious secret, something from another Reality bestowed onto human beings by a powerful Spiritual presence, a Spirit who has acted as the Father of Witchery and Shamanism since time immemorial.
The true “condition of liberation” is found in religious devotion to Him who is the granter of occult inspiration, insight, and spirit-flight. Without a belief in him, and ritual devotion to him, only a weak, materialistic caricature of this condition will ever be produced by the spiritual tourists and “playgans” who seek it. So many people fail to see this simple and hidden fact: the secret to so many of the mythical and magical experiences that we read about in our folklore and stories are not to be re-created or found in the realm that we misapprehend as “the material” alone; the secret is found in faith, in belief, in the world of Spirits, and in a realm that we have excoriated as “superstitious” and “religious” in the modern day.
If you seek Spirit-Flight, and the direct mental experience of an Unseen World, and if it is your Fate to achieve it, then you will. You won’t know until you try, and just having the desire to seek it is sign that you are half-way there. Will you go the whole way?
If you will, you will be required to renounce your faith in the tyrants of so-called empiricism and the priests of materialism that rule our world and ruin the minds of our young, they who destroy the possibility of poetic inspiration daily by building their groundless walls between what they call “subjective” and “objective”- a false distinction if ever there was one. It is as false as the myths used by the political and social mill of power-brokers that once controlled the minds of Europeans with their supposed “God” and all the contrived fear of hellfire they invoked.
You are going to have to let go of all your rationalistic assurances and re-embrace the Wisdom of Uncertainty. You are going to have to let yourself believe again in the Unseen and all the possibilities it may contain, and let yourself leave behind the “safe place” you may have created for yourself, based on the assurances of the skeptics and materialists that if something can’t be experienced with the five senses, then it isn’t “real”. Such an idea is spurious nonsense that blinds humankind to the deep resources and regenerating powers that dwell closer to us than we are to ourselves, and which daily interact with us. We could realize them and integrate ourselves with them, if we could overcome the fear and ignorance that we have been cobwebbed in first by the blindly faithful church and then by blindly skeptical sciences.
Would you seek entrance into the path of the Witch-shaman? Would you experience transvection, moving spiritually and mentally from the condition of the above-ground men to the strange and ghostly perpetuity of Elfhame with all its phantasmagoric visions and hidden chambers of Wisdom? If so, you will need to swear faith to the Witchfather first and foremost, and then you will need three things for the Spell of Flight: The Land beneath your feet, A fire blessed in the name of the Power that is greater than All, and your mount for the ride.
Let us take the ingredients one at a time, and best of luck to you. If a Witch you are to be, a Witch you will be, and this was ordained from the time of your birth- what you come to know, however, all that will become your Witchery, is between you and the Master. It may be grand; it may be nothing. All or nothing, to be or not to be… that is the question.
Finding the Gate to Hell
If you would take spirit-flight into the Unseen World, you will have to find a way “in”. This portal has to be an actual, physical place in the Land itself. It must be a sacred place, a spiritually active place that can give access to Elfhame or the Inner-world, also known as the Underworld. To call it “Hell” would not be wrong, but bear in mind this isn’t a fire-filled pit full of tortured sinners. In reality, Hell or the Underworld is the great “inner space” that is the basis for all outwardly-expressed phenomenon. It is also the inner space that is the basis of our human bodies, experiences, and personalities. To this great dark mystery we all return in Death, and in that place is the hidden seed of Wisdom, for those who can consciously plunge into its depths and face the guardians there, and the many challenges/dangers, and seize it.
The experience of “Hell” is different to every person who experiences its condition of depth and mystery, whether that person be dead or a living person, such as a Witch, who consciously and intentionally voyages there. For the most wicked of people, it is a deadly, poisonous, painful place and experience; for the innocent, it is bright and open and free; for the average bloke it is a place of dark and light powers and experienced, mixed together, forming a narrow bridge or road between them.
Anyone who can remain conscious enough can experience the Truth of Reality in the deep places of the self and the world, and the Mystic or Shaman’s voyage to the Gods or the Unseen world has this as its ultimate and final goal; to know the Truth of things and return to mankind and mediate that truth to them, though the mediation must happen in symbolic terms. Pay attention to myths and folklore, if you would see the arcane language of the Underworld spread out before you, and if you would fathom the Truths they conceal.
You begin your journey by pledging your faith to the two powers who are dominant in the Underworld or the Innerworld- The King and Queen of Spirits or the Faery King and Queen. Are they the Devil and his Dame? More recent folklore remembers them in that way, yes. To the wise, a rose by any other name is still a rose. You should go out alone, as far from people as you can, and in a lonely place, raise a cup and wooden plate or bowl of red wine or red drink, and dark bread, and pledge your faith to them and to the powers of the Underworld over which they rule.
Bless the cup and the plate/bowl in their most powerful names, as such:
OLD ONE, THIS BREAD WITH YOUR POWER MAKE RED
QUEEN ELFHEN, FILL THIS CUP WITH YOUR BLESSING
And drink a bit and eat a bit of it, before casting the remains of the bread and wine or drink onto the ground itself. It would be better to do this at the roots of a very old, large tree, but a body of water is good, too.
You are sending their portion down to them, and as you watch it soak into the ground, ask them to lead you to a portal in the Land, through which you can access the deep world below over which they rule. Tell them you wish to seek wisdom and truth from the hidden places of the earth, so that you can live a better life and help others to do so. If I were you, I’d mean what I say.
Now, you must seek out your portal. After your offering, (which you can repeat as often as you need to) you must become a wanderer on the Land, looking for a “way down”. Killing yourself would do the trick, but you don’t want to do that, because you wouldn’t be able to get back to tell the living about what you experienced in the Netherworld. So, you are looking for a place where you can create an experience that is as close to death as possible without being fatal. Be warned, however, that the Underworldly experience, in its full power, has the same mental impact on you as actual death does, for it is a mystical death in and of itself, and it may cause much discomfort to you, possible mental trauma, before it yields up its wisdom. Nothing is free.
What you are seeking for is a location that contains a door to the Unseen world. Many exist, but they are guarded. You must be allowed through by the powers that guard them, and permission comes from the King and Queen below, and nowhere else. That is the point of pledging faith to them, and convincing them of the purity of your mission- that they might let you in. In your own life, you have to be aware of what you “let in” to yourself daily, and what you deny entrance. It is very important than you let love in, and deny entrance to the foolish passions that dominate your mind’s free time and clarity. When I say “love” here, don’t be fooled by whatever sentimental notions you may have attached to that word.
Real love is both exhilarating and frightening. Real love demands everything from us. You have to love the Powers in the natural world, hidden and obvious, or you will never gain entrance to their inner reality. This “love” is pure love; it is a desire to be with them through thick and thin, through times of spiritual illumination and abject rejection and boredom. It is a pledge through health and sickness, and I suppose you know the rest.
Above all, it is a desire for all beings- including yourself- to have the best they can have, which is always Wisdom and the Truth. Wisdom and Truth are the two highest gifts and the two highest goods for anyone. Forget all the ideas you’ve had about roses and chocolate; romance- as delightful a diversion as it may be- is trite in the face of real love.
I don’t suppose it will always be about love; sometimes life demands that we protect ourselves and our loved ones and/or take vengeance on people who have hurt us or our families. Of course, I’m talking about people who truly hurt us, and in that reasoning, you may seek out darker paths and powers in the Great Below, using this spell of flight. Be cautious. It is your decision to make, yours to decide what you do and seek with your life-time, but there is a price that must be paid for our every deed. I’d be sure that I was justified in whatever I did, if I were you.
At any rate, what you seek in the Land is a great tree, a thorn, an oak or an ash, preferably, of advanced age and with a large root-system. That would be an ideal “portal” for your flight. Other features in the Land that will suffice and for which you should be searching are hills, caves, springs or the sources of rivers and streams, natural lakes or ponds, and burial sites, preferably ancient ones, but modern cemeteries of some age will do. You must pay attention to the local lore of your land, especially where concerns stories of “haunted” places and the like, or places that were thought to be gatherings of “Witches”. Naturally, I’m not talking about recent stories- I’m talking about old, traditional associations.
You should ask the King and Queen to show you a place in your dreams, every night before you go to sleep, and pay attention to your dreams. After you do your Red Meal to them, let yourself wander aimlessly across your land, but pay attention to your gut-level feeling as you do, to be guided to a suitable place. You will, of course, know it when you see it and feel it.
When you do find a place, you need to do your devotional meal there again, and try to sleep at that area for a few nights, camping out as it were, but very respectfully. You need to “see” in your dreams that this place is powerful and welcoming. When you have located this sacred place, you will be ready to assay the Spell of Flight.
Kindling the Faery Balefire
Sacred Days to the Old Ways, often captured in folklore as the feast-days of Saints and as special folk-festivals like Lammas, Candlemas, All Hallows, and the like, are the ideal days to perform this working, and indeed, as Witches from all times have known, the “high and holy days” are the ultimate time of Netherworldly contact. Also, all workings performed in the sub-lunar realm are influenced by the phase of the moon; waxing and full moons make the “trods” or Faery Roads especially illuminated and easy to access. Dark moons are really the best time for working in this world, with the power of Providence, old and hidden Fate herself. Any moon phase will allow you to use the Spell of Flight, but larger moons make it easier.
You should never try this working if you are tired; falling asleep, giving up to unconsciousness will only cause the working to fail, though your dreams may indeed by interesting, if you remember anything at all. Slight intoxication may help as well, but never too much. The use of hallucinogenic plants is not necessary, though in the old days, oftentimes they were used. We avoid them today for several reasons; firstly, most people lack the spiritual relationship between person and plant-spirit required to use them for religious purpose; secondly, we lack the herbological know-how to really use them safely, as most of the Saturnian plants used for “Flight” in the old days are highly toxic.
Some of the greatest of seers and mystics from the British Isles traditions didn’t use plant-helpers at all; merely going to faery-haunted locations and lying down in trance was all they needed to experience powerful and direct contact with the Unseen world, and such is the same for us today, if we do as the spell requires- make a pact or bond with the ruling powers in the Underworld, and make contact with a truly powerful place giving access to the Unseen. These are the two “elements” that you often find missing from modern so-called “pathworkings” and “guided meditations” that claim to give people contact with the Unseen world. I can assure you that they do not; what we need is living connection to real powers in the Land, and a knowledge of the power-locations of a Land, before anything is possible. On top of that, as I said before, we need faith, and a sense of wonder for what lies concealed deep in ourselves and in the Land.
When you are ready to make your flight, go to the portal-location you have found, and make a fire, safely of course. Ring it with stones or a small trench and build it safely away from underbrush. Never disturb the land overly when building anything there. Make the fire wherever you can, comfortably near the portal-place, and keeping the place in sight if at all possible, though being near to it is fine, if you must go distant to build your fire. Some people use tapers or candles, and you can, indeed, use them, but a fire is better, because part of the power of this spell lies in the rising smoke, and candles seldom make enough smoke. Candles and Incense would seem to be a better idea, if you simply cannot have a fire.
As you light it, you must invoke the Greatest Power, and bless the fire in its name- Ancient Providence. Tell the flames, over and over, that you “Make them sacred in the name of Ancient Providence, Who brings all women and men to birth, and ordains the deaths of all, and who decides the end of all things.”
Repeat the prayer, over and over, and understand that you are invoking a power that is far beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Ask Providence to bring you to the deepest places of the Underworld, and help you to find what you seek, and to see what you must see. Stop when you feel that the spiritual presence of the fire and the place has changed.
The Invocation of the Refulgent Master
At this point, standing before your balefire, you must pray to the King of the Underworld or Faery, calling him Master, and ask him to carry you, to bestow upon you the power of Transvection, the power of Spirit-Flight, that you can go down through the Sacred Place before you, into the depths of the Unseen. Ask him to carry you to the goal you seek. Call him “Leader of the Spirit-Rade, the Hunt of the Unseen Powers, you who shine and move in the realm of the shades” And ask him to carry you, in spirit-vision, to the Unseen world, and to the place of wisdom. Ask your fetch-spirit, your guard and protector, to carry you downward and into the Unseen.
As you are invoking Him, you should begin walking counter-clockwise around the fire, keeping your eyes on its flames, and realizing that the FLAMES ARE A DOOR to the unseen world, and that the Master can hear you through them. When you have this understanding, you begin to “send” your words into the fire, and to his “ears”. Finally, Ask him and your fetch to open your inner eye.
Flying on the Riding Pole
You have, at this point, assembled two of the three needed conditions for this spell: The element embodied in the Land, and the Fire. Now, you add the last, the Flying-Pole. You should, of course, have brought this with you when you went out to your portal-place and made your fire. The riding pole can be a broomstick, of course, but only a traditional besom, not some silly modern thing; but it can also just be a plain, straight piece of wood, at least 3-4 feet long, and up to 5 feet long. It is said by some to have been a phallic staff, in the old days, and if that pleases you (the look of it, I mean) then it will suffice. Pitchforks or Stangs can be used as riding poles, as well.
Here is the key to the spell. Standing or sitting, and holding your riding-pole in your left hand, look at the fire, and see the smoke rising. Pay attention to the ghostly drifting of the smoke that rises. Focus on it. The entire “spell of flying” began when you first raised your cup and bowl to the Powers below, to guide yourself to the place you finally found; but the real “motion” of the spell starts in the smoke that rises from the Balefire.
Stare at it, and imagine what it would feel like to have a body of smoke, being propelled upwards by tongues of flame. Feel inside what it would feel like, being insubstantial and being pushed up, always pushed and pushed further, going effortlessly and rising. While you are looking at the smoke, you can place your riding pole between your legs, but this isn’t needed.
After you have meditated on the rising smoke long enough, Lie back before your fire, blindfold yourself with a black or dark cloth (the Hooding or Hoodwinking), and lay the pole next to you, on your left side. Close your eyes, but keep the vision in your mind’s eye of your fire and its rising smoke. In your inner eye, see (but more importantly feel) yourself stand up, and put the pole between your legs, and then feel yourself SHRINK- yes, bodily shrink, down to a smaller size, and suddenly fly over to the fire, placing yourself in the stream of smoke coming up from the fire.
“Look” down with your inner eye and see the flames directly below you and feel the smoke rising up around you, and feel a “pushing” below you, being caused by the flames. Begin to feel the sensation of rising with the smoke, not fast, just gently rising, but with a steady pushing from the flames under you. Even though you are rising, rising, the flames getting more distant, the pushing NEVER stops- it continues to propel you, and in fact, it gets stronger.
You go higher and higher, and you don’t need to “see” in your minds eye where you are going; you only need to feel the sensation of rising and pushing below you.
You will continue to rise, even if you can’t see the dark sky and clouds, it’s fine. You rise faster and faster, until finally, you are in full flight, like a rocket, straight up. Don’t try to interrupt the upward flight feeling; your task here is nearly done. If the spell works, you will find that the feeling begins to change on its own; your flight path will “bend” and become an arch, as you turn back towards the ground, and fly, at high speed, straight down under the ground THROUGH the portal-place that your still, blindfolded body is lying near. This massive “leap up and plunge back down” is the famed “Hareleap” or “Toadleap” you may have heard of, in the mutterings of Witches.
From this point, the feeling of upward-rushing flight has not changed, but you are now hurtling downwards, with that pushing still under you, only pushing you down now, and going deep into the earth, down to the Underworld, or to the Faery-world. The Dark Master of Elfhame and his Queen have you in their hands and power now; what happens as your trance-state deepens into the perception-state of Hell or Elfhame will be something that only you can experience. I wish you the best of luck. If you actually get this far, and the spell works, congratulations; few get this far.
Bear in mind that “experiences” in the deep state of Elfhame can come in any form, and the truest are not “visions” you have with your imagination; they are simply coming from a deeper place, which is hard to explain. You will know when it happens; sometimes it will be like a waking dream, other times like conversations with unseen beings that you simply know are there, and feel there. Do not have ANY expectations of what you will see or experience; just let go and let the Master take you down, and keep an open mind.
If you actually have some experience below of power or wisdom, or any experience at all which you are certain is not being “created” by you, and you recall it when you “come back” and open your eyes, further congratulations are in order; you have performed a full act of Witchery, and can count yourself among the number of the Night-Flying Witches. It will be your first journey below, among many.
May all of your flights end in Wisdom.
Copyright © 2006 by Robin Artisson
All Rights Reserved.
First published in Penton in April 2007.
Robin Artisson is a proponent of Traditional Paganism and author of The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill