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Healing the Wounds of Renunciation

May 9, 2018

Over the years, I have met many witches, magicians, heathens, pagans and magical practitioners. A vast number of them inherited an upbringing within a culture of organized religion and recount stories of leaving their previous spiritual path. These shared experiences frequently carry emotional scars of alienation and contempt for the renounced faith. Commonly, ties with family and friends become strained and sometimes severed. This can lead to self-doubt and shame. What is rarely discussed, are the methods of healing from the trauma of becoming an apostate. Apostasy can be defined as a renunciation or abandonment of a religious belief. An apostate is simply the person who rejects a religion. I will clarify that this is different from a heretic, who may hold views or beliefs counter to a particular religion, but is still functioning within that structure.

At this point, I run the risk of generalization, as I can only elucidate my own experience as an apostate, a term I have learned to embrace. Essentially, when I left the Lutheran church in my early twenties, it was due to a series of events which precipitated years prior. Magick was nothing new to me. I’d been reading tarot and performing candle magick out of a hidden shoebox for years. Renunciation came to me after years of practicing magick in secret. I knew the consequences of rejecting Christianity. My family to this day is still in denial of my apostasy. When I finally “came out” of the proverbial broom closet, I was adept in my magical practice. The healing remained to be addressed. I was now a self-exile to my spiritual culture. I had years of dogma to deprogram. I had sexual shame to overcome. I had repressed feelings to master.

One of the best practices I adopted was through automatic writing. By journaling my feelings without the restrictions of grammar and spelling, I was tapping into the deep, primal emotions of past trauma. I also saw a therapist. Sometimes I hit a pothole in processing a particular wound and needed a pair of objective ears to encourage and intellectualize with me. I tended to nerd out on Jung and metaphysics, but I was still dealing with my spiritual issue at heart. Some people may be averted to seeing a therapist; I think it depends on your therapist. I test-drove a few before I found the right one. Lastly, I practiced mindfulness. Through Kundalini yoga, I learned how to notice physical sensations of pain in the body as results of past emotional traumas. In meditation, I was able to then locate the source of the wound on a spiritual level, and detach from the feeling. This is different from repressing the emotion. Detachment from the sources of trauma and recognition of emotional triggers is essentially the same as the magical practice of “cutting the cord.” You are no longer feeding the scar with your emotional energy. You are detached from resentment, hate, loathing, fear, shame and guilt because you have conquered the trauma and transmuted it into personal power. This is not a form of forgiveness or forgetting. You may choose to forgive and forget, or not. The most important thing is transforming shadow energy into the vision of your true will and being.

Without healing, a witch or magician holds onto their scars and cannot mature into their true will. They become mired in their emotions and alienate themselves further, because they haven’t allowed themselves to integrate their new spiritual direction beyond a stage of rebellion. They become fanatics. In one of his lectures, Swami Vivekananda said:

“That singleness of attachment to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of the denunciation of everything else. All the weak and underdeveloped minds in every religion or country have only one way of loving their own ideal, and that is to hate every other ideal. Herein is the explanation of why the same man who is so lovingly attached to his own ideal of God, so devoted to his own religion, becomes a howling fanatic as soon as he sees or hears anything of any other ideal.”

Yes, Vivekananda was talking to an audience of Christians, Muslims, and Jews, but I believe the same thing applies to us in the magical community. If we are ever truly going to embrace our magico-religious paths and reintegrate them into our souls, we must heal. Alchemy may best describe the process of apostatic healing; at its core it teaches the transmutation of base materials into refined substances. We must heal by transforming our traumas into our true selves. This happens when we sense a renewed spirit for life. When we can literally feel the buzzing of insect wings and taste nectar on the breeze. When we no longer feel alienated or lacking direction in our spirituality. The sweetness of liberation is intoxicating.

“Be goodly therefore: dress ye all in fine apparel; eat rich foods and drink sweet wines and wines that foam! Also, take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will! But always unto me.” –Liber AL 1:51

Hello. My name is Samuel, and I’m a Christian apostate.

Author: Samuel McCabe is a visual artist, educator, operative magician and Tarot reader at Ritualcravt. He has ten years experience with ceremonial magick in group and solitary settings. He is currently researching the origins of magick through grimoires, mythology and anthropology. Samuel teaches using a project-based approach that inspires creativity and independence in his students.