An Interview with Christopher Penczak (by Bernadette Montana)
Article ID: 14501
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Brid's Closet
Posted: March 27th. 2011
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We now continue with our series of interviews with noted author Christopher Penczak!
Bernadette: Many of the celebrations of the Wheel of the Year were originally created and celebrated by a culture that were no longer a hunter-gatherer society but were an agricultural society. Many of us today are not following an agricultural lifestyle, though we receive the benefits of such.
Does this cultural change of todayís times warrant todayís pagans to reassess our magical celebrations?
Christopher: While weíre not involved in an agricultural lifestyle, one could argue in terms of food, we still an agricultural society. Even when you donít live on a farm, the markers of the season are important touchstones to the cycle of life in the course of a single year. The outer signs, such as the first flowers, the changing of the leaves or the rise and fall in sunlight indicate tides of life force that flow in our world, and its important as magickal people to be in touch with those tides. They influence our health, mood and magick. I think they are particularly important for those of us who are not living on a farm, to keep in touch with the lifetides that feed and support us.
Iím also a big advocate of the astrological markers of the Wheel of the Year, and many of my personal rituals and with my private magickal groups are star and underworld based, looking at the flow of the sun through the signs, and the alchemy that embodies. The fire festivals are always in a fixed sign, while the solar festivals are the transition between mutable and cardinal signs. Looking at the signs involved, and their shadow opposites, for example Taurus and Scorpio for Beltane and Samhain, give us a lot to work with magickally. The cycle is one of sovereignty in the inner mysteries, the cycle of the royal king and queen within us all, just as much as it is the agriculture itself. So my own adaption in the modern world is to focus on this aspect of the Wheel, and to ever go deeper in our connection to spirit through the living land.
Bernadette: How much has Wicca changed, in the terms of what you have taught over the years. And do you find that the changes have been for the betterment or the detriment of the Craft.
Christopher: Well, to quite a wise priestess in my life, everything serves the Goddess. I think all these changes, for good and ill, serve in the evolution of our Craft. Some break things down and some build them up. Both are needed. I think even the words we use have changed a lot. When I got involved in the Craft, which comparatively wasnít that long ago, less than twenty years, we introduced ourselves to new people as practitioners of Earth Religions. Then used the term Pagan. Then used the term Wicca because no one knew what it meant and then got to the word Witchcraft. While the divide was still there between modern eclectic and solitary Wicca, and British Traditional Wicca, it wasnít as public. Most people didnít mean BTW unless they specifically said Traditional Wicca. I got my eyes opened when visiting the UK for the first time, and the divide was very evident and vocal. I had fun with both sides, but it was a bit weird. I think that has come to American now more fervently, and has been confused even more with the rise in popularity of British Traditional Witchcraft, separate from Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca. Those using that term today are more in the vein of Robert Cochrane, though many Alexandrians and Gardnerians use the term British Traditional Witchcraft rather than British Traditional Wicca. Confused yet? Thatís why I tend to call myself a modern Witch, or perhaps it should be postmodern Witch. I draw from all of these things that have influenced me, but not limited to any one of them.
I think in general the more shamanic elements have expanded in the Craft. When I began, Totemic Animals were something you knew about, but few taught you how to work with them directly in spirit. It was more like ďhey whatís your sign?Ē but instead ďhey whatís your totem?Ē The idea of reciprocity with the spirit world has certainly grown. I think at one time gods and spirits were like ingredients to a spell, rather than partners. Thereís a lot more emphasis on the green world these days, beyond spells. Medicine, gardens and living relationships are keys which were not emphasized when I learned. I also think more independents and solitaries are talking about, and seeking the Mysteries, often by incorporating complimentary practices and traditions to a core of Witchcraft. The expansion of our understanding of the soul, and consciousness has grown, and I applaud that change.
I think the pagan reconstructionist revival has done a lot to add more traditional lore and culture to modern paganism and Wicca, though itís also done some work to divorce it from the occult revival which I have a hard time accepting. While I suppose you can practice these things in a purely religious reconstructed context, itís hard not to think of it as part of the British Occult Revival. Would we have general paganism without occultism? Iím not sure. Lots of things that were pretty standard to be exposed to when I started out are unknown among many new witches. I find that rather weird.
Right now I think weíre in an interesting dynamic pulling some back to traditional orthodoxies and others to push the edges in terms of exactly what Witchcraft is. I find the struggle interesting, and my role in it rather fun. Many modern practitioners see me as very modern, while some of the most traditional folk see me as more traditional than they might have previously thought. Of course, many are the exact opposite. Iím one for being grounded in tradition, but not being afraid to change, to ask questions and to reach to new things and new terminology if it brings us deeper.
Bernadette: What do you think of the evolution of the publicís acceptance of Wicca?
Christopher: Itís quite amazing, isnít it? Though at the same time, as it becomes more public, I wonder if it will lose a little of its allure. It is mystery training for the soul and by nature, a bit taboo. Though the opportunity for interfaith education and out reach is greater than before and Iíve done a lot of interfaith work. I guess Iím rather mixed on the public acceptance. But I am a firm believer that in the coming aeon we as Witches, need to bring our own wisdom, mysteries and magick to the global table of religions as we move forward. I see us a balance point between the Earth and Star mysteries, and this balance is lacking in religious thought. At the same time, we need to be deepening and expanding our own theology and culture, as our modern movement has just been around for a little over sixty years.
Bernadette: What made you decide to self publish? What titles will you be publishing?
Christopher: Iíve had great experiences with major publishers and plan on continuing those experiences with future work that has more of a mainstream reach. My next Llewellyn book is the Witchís Heart, which comes out in May of 2011. But some of my work was taking me in a more esoteric, grimoire like direction. Iíve been influenced in the last few years a lot more by Trad Craft groups and grimoires, as their imagery and poetry has matched some of my own personal experience. I saw my books having more art, poetry and in general being less linear and for lack of a better word, marketable. Rather than have a publishing committee ask me to change any of my art in terms of commerce, I decided to retain control and do it my own way. I still have incredible editors and production people who keep me in check in terms of good publishing, but my more unusual theological ideas, like those expressed in the Three Rays of Witchcraft work best without input from a corporation. Our second book, just released, is The Plant Spirit Familiar, with some unusual ideas about working with plants as you would a totem animal. Our third planned release is on trance techniques in Witchcraft, called The Gates of Witchcraft. We have a few other possible titles in the works for 2012, including some fund raising compilations for the Temple of Witchcraft, as well as a grimoire on the Morrighan and a multifaith look at Buddhism, Christianity and Paganism. After those are set, the Faeries have said its time for their book, so I must keep the Faeries happy.
Bernadette: Describe what The Temple of Witchcraft is and itís goals for the future?
Christopher: The Temple of Witchcraft grew out of my work and classes. It started as a monthly meditation group that evolved into the first Inner Temple class. As they progressed, I worked on a five level system of training, involving five mysteries. They roughly break down to the oracular, fertility, ecstatic, Gnostic and resurrection mysteries. The class handouts get getting bigger and bigger, and eventually turned into the books and CDs, and my full time career. Over the years, though I didnít intend it, a community and identity grew out of the classes and the sabbats some of us would put on. Many were looking for an identity, like those who specifically identify as Gardnerian, Feri, Cabot or Blue Star. Some even jokingly (and not so jokingly) referred to themselves as Christopherians and Penczakians. While I honor all those who have named traditions for what they have contributed, I feel that we donít need any more traditions named after one person, as many people have been involved in the evolution of the teachings and community. A few years ago, the idea of an organization, then a nonprofit church, was introduced, to create something that would outlast any one individual and help organize education and community gatherings. Weíve been legally together for about two years, those the seeds for this all started back in 1998 or so.
Weíve obtained our 501c3e non-profit status with the Federal Government, established a Mystery School, Seminary and Ministerial Church for the body of the community with twelve areas of service based upon the twelve zodiac signs. Our idea is not a hierarchical system, but a network like a web, with the founders and board of directors guiding in the center, but each ministry having some autonomy. Our plans include a yearly festival, starting in June 2011, Templefest and an eventual indoor convention as well as the outdoor festival. We plan to raise money to purchase an area of land for our physical mystery school and seminary retreats, as well as to be able to provide public sabbats and other training and events. Currently we rent space for individual events but have sabbats, esbats, womenís group, educational series, healing circles and ministerial services. Weíre based out of New Hampshire, but hope to expand to have more of a national presence once our base of operations is in a permanent NH location.
Bernadette: What drives you to all that you do? Between all the writing that you do, teaching the online classes, running the temple and finding the time to go on the road to do all the workshops that you do-how do you find the time to fit it all in?
Christopher: In the end it is about union with True Will for me. Once you have a sense of your purpose and mission, you move towards that continually. As you do, you are supported. I never would have consciously chosen this as my path ten or twenty years ago. I was a musician with aspirations of being a rock star. But regular spiritual and magickal work puts you in touch with your soulís purpose, and things start to flow. Yes, times itís very difficult and frustrating, but for the most part, itís a joy. Iím very blessed to spend the majority of my time on magickal projects. I enjoy connecting to magickal people and hopefully inspiring, and in turn, learning from those whom I meet in classes and at events. Part of my success is good management skills from my life in an office beforeÖ blocking out time for work and play makes more effective time for everything. If I donít book time off, it doesnít happen. A friend said being self-employed is great; you just work half days. Pick any twelve hours a day and work them. Also when you are self-employed, not eating is a great motivation for getting things done. But when you love it, it doesnít seem like work. When Iím on a roll for a book, rather than watch TV, Iíll continue writing because Iím in love with the process. Iíve found that most people who find that sense of true purpose have abundant energy to go forward and do it, and the universe supports them.
Bernadette: Tell us more about your upcoming plans!
Christopher: I think weíve hit most of my major plans. I will be offering more of the online Witchcraft classes, as well as possibly starting a class on astrology, tarot and maybe angels. I have a few more ideas in mind for books, including a book on the Faery Folk from my own perspective. I want to continue to deepen the continuing education courses for the Temple, both seminary classes that teach the ďsoft skillsĒ in leadership, management, mediation and communication, where Iím getting a lot of professional help from other Temple members, but also deepening the mysteries as I go deeper in my relationship with spirit. We plan on an advanced Dark Moon study group for Temple Ministers. On a personal note, Iíve been exploring Enochian (Thanks to the wonderful writings of Lon Milo DuQuette) and having a great time.
Bernadette: I wanted to take this time to thank Christopher for taking the time to do this interview for us! I realize that this one personís opinion, but I highly recommend reading his many books. The information is priceless! The subjects range from Witchcraft and magick to Reiki and mysticism. A must for anyone magickal library!
Christopher Penczak Bio: Christopher Penczak is an award-winning author, teacher, and healing practitioner. He has studied extensively with witches, mystics, shamans, and healers in a variety of traditions from around the world to synthesize his own practice of magick and healing.
Formerly based in the music industry, Christopher was empowered by his spiritual experiences to live a magickal life, and began a full-time practice of teaching, writing, and seeing clients. He is the author of the award-winning Temple of Witchcraft series: The Inner Temple of Witchcraft, The Outer Temple of Witchcraft, The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft, and The Living Temple of Witchcraft Volumes 1 and 2.
His other books include City Magick (Red Wheel/Weiser) , Spirit Allies (Red Wheel/Weiser) , Gay Witchcraft (Red Wheel/Weiser) , Magick of Reiki, Sons of the Goddess, Ascension Magick, Instant Magick, The Mystic Foundation, The Witchís Shield, The Witchís Coin, and the forthcoming The Witchís Heart. Christopher Penczak resides in New Hampshire. Visit him online at:
Location: Cornwall, New York
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