It's Friday night and I'm in a witch's home, ie a neat facebrick cluster in Joburg's northern residential areas. On the coffee table are candles, bottles of red wine, snacks and a choice of books (A Witches' Bible, What Witches Do et cetera.) A chocolate-point Siamese feline runs by. The flatscreen TELEVISION is revealing mainly naked, circa 1970s, guys and women doing mysterious witchy things in black and white. "Skyclad" is the pagan term for ritual nudity.Tonight is one of

(not-his-real-name )Ryan X's"soirée evenings ". It's an uncommon opportunity for anybody thinking about the occult, in esotericism, in "the craft" of Wicca, to meet a Wiccan high priest, as in Ryan, and go over mysteries and magick while typically drinking excessive red wine.

Apart from me and Ryan there are 5 individuals at tonight's gathering, including a fascinating guy who sits cross-legged and barefoot on his chair and air-drums to Led Zeppelin's Staircase To Paradise when it shows up on Ryan's playlist.You could call

Ryan a witch - Wicca, a term created in the late '60s/ early '70s and suggesting "sensible one", is truly just a gentler word for witch - and he follows what's called the Alexandrian craft, among the more ritualistic and secretive branches of Wicca. Other branches include Gardnerian and Eclectic - these were established in the '50s/ '60s. Witchcraft itself is, naturally, ancient. Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca are named after their particular "creators" Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders, both British.To become a high priest or priestess is seriously tough work. Of all, when it comes to initiation into the Alexandrian craft, you 'd have to send out a hand-written letter to a high priest or priestess describing why you want to enter the craft. If you're selected, you get individually training, which includes copying out the Book of Shadows, a sort of Wiccan bible consisting of sacred texts and guidelines for magick routines. Note the difference between"magic" and"magick"-the former is card techniques and bunnies and women being sawn in half et cetera."Wicca is a faith and Alexandrian craft is a priesthood, an occupation in the same method as something like the Catholic priesthood," Ryan states."People underestimate the kind of discipline required to study the craft. It's quite strenuous. It's something you have actually got to be bloody sure you desire to do."Initiation uses up to six months. After that, training starts

. This consists of taking an oath of secrecy, since the understanding is thought about sacred and will not be comprehended outside of its context.So exactly what about magick? Casting spells? Ryan states there are eight methods to"raise

power"in a craft circle. Wiccans say they have fun with energy during these spell-castings, and it's not for amateurs. Some I spoke with said that while casting spells unusual things often happen, like rushes of cold air, or lights flickering, or a bongo drum using its own."Power is power is power, and power raised in the circle is like electrical energy, it can be utilized to shock someone to death or utilized for light, "Ryan states."A great deal of magick is utilized for recovery." Spell-casting is not about requesting unlimited riches or to get up one day and look like Ryan Gosling or Scarlett Johansson. No. Wicca, as it was described to me, is largely about self-questioning, about facing yourself-the excellent and bad -and discovering methods to improve. Spell-casting belongs to that. You could compare it to prayer or wishing over a birthday cake - you can ask for something however if you're not ready to take effort and do something about the thing you prayed/wished for, absolutely nothing's going to occur. High priestess Moira Chalklen states Wicca is

basically a 'self-help religion'. Image: OLIVER ROBERTS Magick, inning accordance with Ryan, is something even non-Wiccans

usage regularly, albeit subconsciously:"The way you set up a space before people come to visit you, atmosphere, body movement. Body movement is a huge thing; the active usage of body movement puts it into the worlds of magick."When I initially fulfill Ryan, at a coffee bar in a mall,

he's using a pentacle symbol around his neck, in addition to various rings. I ask him whether people look at him oddly, or believe he enjoys devil worship (which, FYI, Wicca has zilch to do with ). He states that he only wears these things on certain events, definitely not day-to-day, due to the fact that his profession would not look kindly on it. There's likewise another factor."I don't want individuals to know what I do,"he states."The word'occult'implies hidden, secret. In traditional Wicca, we like our work to be rather hidden, not since it's dodgy however because it's sacred." Moira Chalklen and Leanne Middleton, whom I fulfill a couple of days after the

soirée, are high priestesses who practice Eclectic Wicca. This kind is less ritualistic than the others and probably a little bit more "relaxed "; although the initiation is still strenuous, it's less old-school than exactly what Ryan practices. Part of Eclectic Wicca's appeal is that these witches develop their own practices and beliefs, instead of being beholden to the rigidity of more conventional Wicca.Unlike Ryan, both ladies are rather delighted to make their witchiness public.

Middleton wears her pentacle to work (she's a claims manager!)and Chalklen has a little crescent moon tattoo on her forehead, simply below the hairline. Chalklen is a third-degree high priestess (the highest you can be)and runs a coven with her hubby, a second-degree high priest. She came to Wicca eight years back after she needed to send her 13-year-old child to rehabilitation. While in rehab, her child satisfied a Wiccan and, seeing her child's subsequent enhanced frame of mind, Chalklen, who was raised as Catholic, decided to check out it."Wicca is basically a self-help religion, "she states.

"It forces you to deal with demons you didn't understand you had. I have a bad temper and that's something Wicca did for me -help me acknowledge that a temper is not always a bad thing; it's great to have if someone's ripping you off because you need to assert that power. You find out ways to utilize that temper in a favorable way. I call it'romancing the shadows': discovering what you don't like about yourself and not getting rid of it but changing it to something positive. "Middleton states Wicca has helped her to handle a great deal of insecurities about herself and that, through the entire initiation process, she"discovered herself"." I do not care exactly what people think, "she says about calling herself a witch. "People are more accepting of the term'Wiccan' or'pagan'and more wary of' witch ', but it's just undertones. We are witches, and I will state that."Obviously when some individuals are initiated into the craft they can't wait to begin casting spells, which is reasonable. However, inning accordance with Middleton, this is a common beginner mistake. "Spells take in a great deal of energy so you attempt to conserve that energy up until you actually need it. You cannot keep doing silly little spells every 5 minutes since

deep space will not approve them. You must just truly request exactly what you require, and only really under alarming circumstances must you use it. Since you have to learn how to deal with concerns with yourself rather of depending on magick."

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It's Friday night and I'm in a witch's home, ie a neat facebrick cluster in Joburg's northern residential areas. On the coffee table are candles, bottles of red wine, snacks and a choice of books (A Witches' Bible, What Witches Do et cetera.) A chocolate-point Siamese feline runs by....