A Training Manual for Mountain Climbers

Josephine McCarthy is at it again, spelunking into the Underworld that magical training has fallen into; and tackling the Mountain of writing up a course for beginning students that breaks down the disciplines and foundations of magic into chunks. Guided by her dream visitations with W.E. Butler and what I take as a deep sense of Justice that flows from her many experiences as battle-hardened  Adept, she is undertaking another Herculean labor of love as a gift to the generation of magicians and teachers now coming up. Josephine has the experience and knowledge to really create a worthwhile course of training, and she is using the skills accumulated in her previous work as a ballet dancer and teacher to do so, specifically in applying the Vaganova method. I’ve always been a fan of lateral thinking, and Josephine is using what she has learned and is applying it to something that will be useful for the magical community at large.

She writes,”When I was a young whipper snapper, I trained professionally in ballet and then trained again as a teacher. It was a rather intense training, with not only the practical application, but technical theory, anatomy and physiology, psychology, child development, history, etc. After those few years, I then studied all the successful teachers, sat and listened to their classes, watched, took notes, asked questions and I also observed the great failures very closely.

From that I learned how to teach well. I went on to teach professionally at classical companies and their schools, and put a fair few hopefuls into professional careers. I also wrote a full eight year syllabus for 11 – 18yr old schools, and one for an undergraduate college course.

Why am I telling you this? Because I never thought to transfer everything I learned from that work into the arena of magic. Because I am dumb. And just in case there is anyone else out there as dumb as me who never thought to apply their hard earned skills into unusual corners.

[ For myself, in studying hacker culture, I think the current occult landscape could draw on a lot of what hackers have done to create a vibrant subculture that is doing worldchanging work. Think of Julian Assange and Wikileaks as one example, and the Hacker spaces and Maker movement as another. We all have skills that might be transferable to the Art. Where do you work? What are you interested in outside of magic? How can it be applied to the specific things magical students and workers are in need of? I suppose that is what I am working on in my esoteric exploration of libraries and the potential role of library workers may play in the ongoing magical revival of the West.]

On this website of mine I’ve written critical posts about what I’ve called the workshop racket.  It was a kind of whiny, bile infused rant, yet none-the-less it stemmed from my own sense of Justice over the commercialization of magic and the Mysteries. For the past few years in general I’ve been questioning everything I learned from magical books, workshops, courses, and the lodges I’ve been a part of, having hit a wall of dissatisfaction. A large part of that dissatisfaction came from inside of myself. I had explored a multiplicity of paths, and hadn’t pushed myself as hard or as deep as I needed to in a single track of study and practice. I can see that all my spread-out interests and activities in the arts served me in other ways, and now that I’ve tightened my belt, I am experiencing things on a whole ‘nother level compared to when I hit the wall. This is in a large part due to working with the visionary techniques Josephine has written into her Magical Knowledge trilogy of books and other works.

I still do decry the commercialization of magic and the Mysteries (which will protect themselves). It shouldn’t cost a student an arm and a leg to participate in a community or learn magical techniques. When they are marketed and sold at high price they become a weekend hobbies afforded only by those who have a disposable income and lots of luxury time. These types of teachers rake in money from the gullible and leave behind those devoted seekers who can’t won’t leave their family to starve just to take a class. And many of the classes on the New Age end of the spiritual market are nothing more than masturbation programs -i.e., self serving, showing nothing of the self sacrifice that is a hallmark of the Mysteries.

Teachers who are on a path of true service have a harder time making ends meet. Writing the kind of training manual Josephine has in mind is adding another burden to the work of an Adept who has already done many tours of duty. Like many of us, she and her husband Stuart Littlejohn have other jobs to attend to, and despite having explored the inner worlds for decades, still have physical bodies that need to be eat.


Recently Jo gave away some samples of Frankincense from her and Stuart’s Goblyn Market, where you can find all sorts of goodies. I received a package of this incense and it has been hella good for keeping my home tuned. The quality of the resins is of a caliber I hadn’t encountered before. You won’t find this kind in the hippie head shops in your university district. The Goblyn’s also have uncovered all manner of strange and delectable weirdness, from used books (including a recent batch from Lady Olivia Robertson, of Fellowship of Isis fame) to bottles, icons, bowls, and shrines. There is a little something for any occult freak, and it is all priced fairly. A little purchase from the Goblyn’s could go a ways to feeding Jo, Stuart and their cats while they continue to work on projects that are to the benefit of the magical community as a whole.

Some of the material for the magical training she has started compiling is visible at: http://www.choosingamagicalpath.org/

You won’t usually find me plugging online shops on this blog, but this is a subject I feel strongly about, and Josephine is writing this course and putting it out there without any monetary strings attached. Giving back in whatever way you feel called to, and helping to spread the word about her books and Goblyn Market, is one way to help restore the scales to Balance.

I have written an article on what magical culture could learn from hacker culture, that is in revision, but it will be posted soon. I have another to write in general on drawing lessons from the work and skills we have outside of magic. As always, I’ve got several irons in the fire and many writing projects to work on, including a few more posts to finish up the series on the Library Guild.

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3 Responses to A Training Manual for Mountain Climbers

  1. Paolo Sammut says:

    Great piece. I feel that Josephines work is among the best work which is out there at the moment and I wish I had her books 15 odd years ago. I like you connections with hacker culture as well. I feel that magic corresponds very nicely with computer and information theory – more so in fact than quantum physics where comparisons with magic are often made.

    • Hi Paolo,

      I’m with you on wishing I had Josephine’s books 15 years ago. Now I feel like I have to go back in some areas and put in the pieces I missed in my own haphazard training and instruction.

      I wrote an article on what magicians could learn from hackers for an anthology that never materialized. I think I will revisit that file, edit it as necessary and put it up here. I’ll let you know when I do. I, too, find the connections there more fluid than the parallels people have tried to draw with quantum physics -which is way over my head. Thanks for dropping by.


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