As Halloween approaches, and America gets ready the “spooky season,” the release of Hocus Pocus 2 has brought attention to witchcraft and the occult in popular culture. For some, this conjures up serious questions about the occult, whether the Sanderson sisters are “real” and if they can really put a spell on you. Ashley Ryan, Pythian Priestess and host of the acclaimed podcast The Occult Unveiled has offered her thoughts on how the occult is portrayed in popular culture versus her own knowledge and experience.
Q: People always throw this phrase around, but is it possible to actually sell your soul to the Devil?
A: No! Our souls have no value to Spirits and energies. It is our life force. Spirits are real, but the idea of them wanting to buy your soul is a joke! Most spirits consider it a bad bargain. High risk for you, low reward for them. What are they going to do with your soul? On the other hand, it is possible to make a pact with the Devil, but it’s not common. However, you can make deals, contracts and elicit help from many different spirits!
Q: Do witches really make potions?
A: Yes, they certainly do. This is done in many practices! Most commonly in medicine men or women, especially in Midwifery - just like the practice of helping women with childbirth. Some midwives do more than administer to women’s bodies and help them give birth, they also make all sort of potions for everything from ailments to inducing birth.
Q: Are spells like what we see in Harry Potter?
A: Ha! I wish it was so extravagant. But no, not really. While some people may use a wand, most of what makes a spell is on an energetic level, you will feel it more than you will see it. This is because magic is not an external force, it is a force that comes from inside of you.
Q: Are Demons evil and to be feared?
A: As English occultist, magician and poet Aleister Crowley put it, “demons are portions of the human brain.” What this means is that where your vices, weaknesses or impulses lie. Demons may influence or tempt you, but we all have a choice to put evil into the world or not to… The Devil does not make anyone do anything.
Q: Is the Pentacle an Evil Symbol?
A: The pentacle is a very old symbol, and certainly not evil as we see in the mainstream. That is a star with a Circle around it. The points on the pentacle symbolize the elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit (Spirit being the topmost point) is called the pentagram. The circle makes it a pentacle and denotes unity. The pentacle has been used in many religions! Yes, even Christians used the pentacle. In the 1500s, it was illustrated on knights' shields (such as in the case of Sir Gawain). Today, the pentacle is a federally recognized religious symbol for the military and can be placed on military graves. The “evil” associations started in the 19th century and were perpetrated by the Satanic Panic in the 20th century. Eventually, the pentacle became associated with the occult and therefore deemed “evil” by the church.
Q: Are spells usually used to cause harm?
A: Absolutely not! You may see threatening symbols (hexes or curses) more often because it is “cool.” However, spells are used for many purposes. Some of these spells are cast to elevate the practitioner to a higher state of consciousness, to create a relationship with a deity or entity, or for healing, as well as for material needs such as love or money.
Q: Are the occult and religion at odds with one another?
A: No - they are actually two sides of the same coin. Outside of church politics, religious teachings are baby steps into the hidden knowledge of the occult, and of the spirits and energies that inhabit and surround us, which are really those powerful forces that lie within all of us. But we have to be willing to separate the “humanness” from the sacred teachings.