a cache of usenet and other text files pertaining
to occult, mystical, and spiritual subjects.


Class, the Classics, and High Magick

To: alt.magick
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Class, the Classics, and "High" Magick
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 23:34:47 -0800

Crowfoot   wrote:

> Do people have any sense of a "class" structure, related to this 
> one or differently constituted altogether, in the magick/wiccan/
> pagan communities?

In the Protestant world at least, the amount of Latin needed to navigate
the corpus hermetica kept "high" occultism out of the hands of those who
didn't happen to go to schools where the classics were taught. Since
these schools were (and remain) largely the preserve of the upper-middle
and upper classes (and often expensive at that), practitioners of the
hermetic field naturally showed a bias toward these classes --
culturally if not by family background.

As a child, I did some work on parallels between the Golden Dawn
"revival"  and other nostalgic or reactionary cultural movements.
Generally, such "revivals" are most appealing to members of cultural
elites -- the "upper classes" -- who have the most to gain from the
recapitulation of a vanished "golden age" or primal scene and the least
to lose from the abandonment of ideas of progress and reform. 

It takes a certain presupposition of leisure to worry much about the
preservation of archaic architecture (et tu, prince charlie) and
vanishing lore, much less spend one's time immersed in a vast
role-playing game of cosmic Lodges.

On a biographical note, Crowley and company definitely harbored intense
nostalgia for an aristocratic era, if they did not come from aristocracy
themselves. Many were of the upper-middle (mercantile) class, but were
encouraged to fraternize with and "aspire" toward old money.

The proof of this pudding can be found in the term "high" magic, which I
personally find a bit pernicious. What makes one branch of the occult
"higher" than another? Is it the absence of pragmatic effect ("work" or 
the "result" that Crowley warns his readers not to lust after)? Is it
the preponderance of classical lore required to engage in practice? Is
it an emphasis on mental activity over "brute" ritual? An emphasis on
content over form?

These are all marks of the "gentleman." I wouldn't be surprised to see
the distinction between "high" and "low" magic emerging out of the
19th-century split between "high" and "low" church in the Anglican Rite
of mother England. Telling if so.

Different of course in the Catholic world, where Latin is more commonly
taught but where dabbling in hermetic heterodoxy isn't quite so easy to
get away with. However, I'm sure someone more knowledgeable than myself
could make a class-oriented case within French masonry and

> I think to the outside public the seer-for-hire
> (tarot reader, psychic, etc.) is considered low-class or even out-
> cast, depending on whether there's a "Gypsy" sub-text or not. Aren't
> witches in classic stories usually poor and marginal persons, while
> wizards tend to be a sort of spiritual bourgeoisie -- not nobles,
> but hired by nobles for their magical skills?

"Low" magic -- which we could take a leaf from the original Anglican
schism and call "broad" magic. Magic for everyone, without tears!

Many witches attempt to evade these class issues by appealing to an 
alternative line of privileged descent, of course. The "old families"
who have handed down practice from generation to generation are, in some
pagan circles, the "real aristocracy."


From:  Crowfoot 
Newsgroups:  alt.magick
Subject: Re: Clothes, and choosing your garments.
> Interesting.  I just came across a comment (where -- ???) that 
> European Romanticism, in the first half of the 19th C, was born of and 
> flourished in the warmth of the sudden appearance of large numbers of 
> younger sons of the industrial bourgeoisie who had the energy of an 
> ambitious class (as opposed to the gentry and aristos) but nothing .
> useful to do with it Maybe the further flowering of this group gave a 
> boost to the Golden Dawn crowd?
> All complicated deliciously by the fact of the rise of American
> Spiritualism via the ("low class") Fox sisters, and spreading to 
> Europe just in time to feed the spiritual hungers awakened by huge 
> losses inc WWI -- this was a phenomenon that was very lively indeed, 
> it seems, among the genteel as opposed to the gentry, in England as 
> well as the US -- have I got that right?
> Fantasy literature, which I both read and write, is full of contrasts 
> between scruffy little "hedge wizards" and "high" practitioners like, 
> say, Gandalf the Grey and his ilk.  These latter seem to be educated 
> and experienced enough to control great and powerful forces, while 
> your village cunning man or woman deals with the homely and small, by 
> and large, in fiction at any rate, and the methods of the latter do 
> tend toward herbs and spells rather than lofty incantations and 
> alchemical wisdom.

Thanks, you two, for an interesting set of posts. The
upwardly-aspirational "High Church / High Magic(k)" cliques of late 19th
and early 20th century England showed their class-consciousness in
numerous petty ways. Case in point: good old Sam Mathers, who suddenly
became the Scottish clan leader, S. L. MacGregor-Mathers and was in
contact with "The Secret Chiefs." And Aleister Crowley, mentioned above,
is a good example: an educated man of the upper mercantile class, he
aspired to aristocracy in his poetic imitations of Sir Richard Burton
and worked hard at keeping the "lower classes" out of his advancement
scheme by branding Jews and Hindus as sub-humans. 

Finally, it is important to note that such grandiosities were not
confined to Hermetics in Victorian and Edwardian England by any means:
Paschal Beverly Randolph, an mid-19th century American Free Man of
Colour, became a Spiritualist, a Rosicrucian, and a Sex Magician -- and
suddenly sprouted a Madagascan Princess for his mother! 

cat yronwode 

Hoodoo in Theory and Practice --

The Arcane Archive is copyright by the authors cited.
Send comments to the Arcane Archivist:

Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to the site maintainer for the creation and upkeep of this site.

The ARCANE ARCHIVE is a large domain,
organized into a number of sub-directories,
each dealing with a different branch of
religion, mysticism, occultism, or esoteric knowledge.
Here are the major ARCANE ARCHIVE directories you can visit:
interdisciplinary: geometry, natural proportion, ratio, archaeoastronomy
mysticism: enlightenment, self-realization, trance, meditation, consciousness
occultism: divination, hermeticism, amulets, sigils, magick, witchcraft, spells
religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.


There are thousands of web pages at the ARCANE ARCHIVE. You can use ATOMZ.COM
to search for a single word (like witchcraft, hoodoo, pagan, or magic) or an
exact phrase (like Kwan Yin, golden ratio, or book of shadows):

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase


Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy, sacred architecture, and sacred geometry
Lucky Mojo Forum: practitioners answer queries on conjure; sponsored by the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Herb Magic: illustrated descriptions of magic herbs with free spells, recipes, and an ordering option
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: ethical diviners and hoodoo spell-casters
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith, the Smallest Church in the World
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century ceremonial occultist
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective
The Mystic Tea Room: divination by reading tea-leaves, with a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races