All Our Relations: Pagans and the more-than-human world.

For aware Pagans the Sacred encompasses us all, rivers and mountains, oceans and deserts, grasses and trees, fish and fungi, birds and animals. Understanding the implications of what this means, and how to experience it first hand, involves our growing individually and as a community well beyond the limits of this world-pathic civilization. All Our Relations exists to help fertilize this transition.

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The Reality of Magick


I was reading my latest issue of Witches and Pagans and came across Michael Greer’s excellent piece on magick and the NeoPagan community. This was the first time I had read about how some busybodies were making themselves obnoxious by attacking the reality of magick. While Greer did a good job of putting these folks in their place, I want to add a personal note.

I am a Pagan today because of magick.  Absent magick I’d now be a pantheist or maybe a panentheist, but my religion, if I had one, would likely be focused on wild nature alone. Not bad, not bad at all, but that’s not who I am or what I do because of… magick.

Let me describe why.

In the 1970s I started a small art and stationery business to finance my Ph.D. research at Berkeley.  I had always had some artistic talent, and had discovered that when I printed my pen and ink designs on envelopes and stationery, people would pay me money for therm.  It turned out to be a more reliable income source than part time teaching, and so I became a street vendor on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. I described myself then as “a starving academic who did art for a living.”

Being a street vendor puts a person in a very different social world than being a graduate student in one of the world’s top universities. My fellow vendors impressed me as quite as intelligent as many I knew on campus, but with different values and life opportunities.  The experience broadened my appreciation for what constituted creative people walking their talk.

It also put me in touch with a much more varied group of people than I would have encountered in Berkeley’s coffee houses and the university library.  Occasionally I would become friendly with a repeat customer, and  in one case when I asked what he did, he replied he was a magician.  “Oh,” I said, “Where do you perform?”

“I’m not that kind of magician.”

Damn! I thought. Another Berkeley loon. I like this guy and he’s a fruitcake.  But he was also a good customer, so I said nothing beyond “That’s interesting.”

The first dare

A year later I finished my dissertation and figured I’d soon be leaving Telegraph Avenue behind, and entering into a Political Science Department somewhere. It was the Christmas/Solstice season, which for street vendors is like harvest season for farmers.  My magician customer came to my table to buy some stationery as gifts. I figured I’d tease him a little since if he got angry with me and stopped buying my stuff, I wasn’t going to be here much longer anyway. 

“Can you show me some real magic?” I asked. I was curious as to how he’d weasel out.

“Sure! How about tonight?”

He gave me the ONLY answer I was entirely unprepared for. Worse, I couldn’t take him up on it because I had to package more stationery so I would have enough to sell the next day.

I begged off, explaining it was Christmas season and I was too busy selling and packaging.

But I was embarrassed. I’d made a dare, been taken up on it, and then backed down. I swore the next time I saw him after the holidays I’d ask, and if he said “Yes” there was no way I wouldn’t see what he could do.

The second dare

In January he came by my table again, giving me another chance.  I again asked if he could show me “real magic,” and he again said “Sure. How about tonight?”

“You’re on” I replied.

“Show up at my place around 10 tonight” he said, giving me his address.

When I knocked on his door that night he opened it wearing a dark robe and carrying a staff. He said “Let’s go up on campus.”

I hope we don’t meet anyone I know, I worried.

We walked several blocks to the quiet and nearly deserted campus, and there my entire worldview was shattered. 

Ley lines

The first place he took me to was a sidewalk leading to the university’s hospital.  There, in the dim light of a street lamp, he showed me a very faint and sort of squashed star of David, one triangle being blue and the other red.  It was faint enough I would not have noticed if I had been walking that way during the day.

“Hold your hand over where they intersect” he said.

I did and my hand tingled.

“Now stand in it.”

My entire body tingled.  In neither case enough for me to have noticed had I stepped in the same place while walking, but quite noticeably so under these circumstances where I was asked to pay attention.

My friend told me he had discovered the symbol while mapping ley lines  on the UC campus. It had been painted where the energy line crossed the sidewalk.  He himself had not made the symbol to collect energy there, but discovered it while tracing the line.

I was impressed. But he didn’t do it.

The aura

Our next stop was the Hearst Amphitheater in the hills behind most of the campus.

He told me that years ago some of the Hearst family had been involved with the occult, and done rituals there.  (The Hearsts also donated the money to build the amphitheater.)  Sometimes even now stuff would still show up. I’d never seen such a thing, and so was more than willing to sneak into the closed amphitheater to see if anything was there. 

Once inside I ended up sitting on the edge of the stage, over the orchestra pit.  My friend was walking through it below me.  Nothing seemed to be going on, nothing except that he had a blue glow around him extending out a couple of feet in every direction including, I assume, below.

Again I was impressed, but he appeared unaware of it. Instead he said “Not much happening tonight. But there is one more place we can check out, a place occultists had trapped an astral being and never sent it back.  We might be able to see it.”

Fine by me. I had become convinced something weird was going on, but he had yet to show me he was a magician.

The astral critter

Our final stop was the strangest architectural feature on the Berkeley campus. I had been there many years and never known it existed, though I had frequently walked close to it.

Trader Vic, a San Francisco restaurateur of the time, was also a sculptor.  He had donated a sculpture of a saber-toothed tiger scaled to match a skeleton in a university museum. It was in a little courtyard where two buildings almost touched corners.  A corkscrewed stairway went up the narrow opening between them to a raised plaza. But the stairs were hidden by trees.

The stairs emerged into a large courtyard enclosed with buildings on all sides, none of which opened out directly to it. The hidden staircase was the only outside access.  A sidewalk went from where the stairs emerged across one side of the courtyard to more stairs that went down to the below-ground part of the opposite building. The path then entered into its basement, and emerged from the ground on the other side.

Between the sidewalk and one of the enclosing buildings was a narrow stretch of soil in which some juniper bushes grew.  In the courtyard’s middle was a large circular concrete plaza which could be accessed from the sidewalk by a small curved bridge over gravel. It was a perfect ritual site and my friend said it was occasionally used for such. Some group or other had conjured something up and left it there, trapped on the gravel. He said the thing was about 6 feet tall and pissed.

We crossed the footbridge, sat on a bench in the circular plaza and waited.

Nothing happened.

Then I noticed something standing between two juniper bushes on the far side of where we sat.  It was only about three feet tall, cylindrical, and white but transparent. It was very faint.

“Do you see anything?” my guide asked.

I decided to tell the truth, but without giving any details.  “Yes” I answered.

“Is it between those two bushes over there?”


“Is it about three feet tall?”


“Is it white?”

“Yes, but I can hardly see it.”

The magician acts

“Let me see what I can do about that.”  With that he walked to the center of the circle, put the end of his staff at its center, and leaned his head against it.

It glowed brighter and became very easy to see!

Returning to me he asked “Any easier?”

“Yes” I said, completely stunned. He had never gotten closer than maybe 50 feet or so, and yet could apparently communicate with it and get it to act in a way making it easy for me to see.  He really was a magician.

We both sat quietly on the bench. I was not interested in getting closer to it and the white thing made no effort to come closer to us. Which was just fine by me.

After a while even something as earth shattering as that gets a little boring, and it was late.  He walked to the center of the circle, lowered his staff, leaned his head against it, and it disappeared entirely.

As we departed we walked by where it had been. I got down on my hands and knees, and looked under the bushes.  Nothing was there but gravel.

“Do you ever teach this stuff?” I asked.

“Sometimes,” he replied.

“Will you teach me?”


The only thing I could check the next day was where the two triangles intersected on the sidewalk. I individually took several graduate student friends and led them to the site.  Without giving them any hint I asked them what they felt when they ran their hands over where the triangles intersected. Three could feel a tingle and one said he felt nothing. The same held when they stood in it. 

I never would have believed such an experience was possible until I had it myself. But it turned out to be the beginning, way back in 1985, of a complete transformation of how I experienced the world. I was opened to many experiences far more ‘impossible’ to  the materialist mind than those had been. That night on the UC campus did not make me a Pagan.  More would need to happen for that. But it decisively settled the issue of whether magick was real and the inadequacy of a materialist philosophy or science.

Whenever anyone tells me magick is impossible or superstitious, I know beyond doubt the person does not know what they are talking about. It’s like when a color blind person tells someone there is no difference between what most of us call red and green.




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Gus diZerega DiZerega combines a formal academic training in Political Science with decades of work in Wicca and shamanic healing. He is a Third Degree Elder in Gardnerian Wicca, studied closely with Timothy White who later founded Shaman’s Drum magazine, and also studied Brazilian Umbanda  for six years under Antonio Costa e Silva.

DiZerega holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Berkeley, has taught and lectured in the US and internationally, and has organized international academic meetings.

His newest book is "Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture Wars, and the Return of the Divine Feminine (Quest, 2013) received a 'silver' award by the Association of Independent Publishers for 2014. It puts both modern Pagan religion and the current cultural and political crisis in the US into historical context, and shows how they are connected.

His first book on Pagan subjects, "Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience," won the Best Nonfiction of 2001 award from  The Coalition of Visionary Resources. 

His second,"Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and a Christian in Dialogue" is what it sounds like. He coauthored it with Philip Johnson. DiZerega particularly like his discussion of polytheism in Burning Times, which in his view is an advance over the discussion in Pagans and Christians.

His third volume, "Faultlines: The Sixties, the Culture War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine," was published in 2013 and won a Silver award from the Association of Independent Publishers in 2014. The subject is obvious, and places it, and the rise of goddess oriented spiritual movements and our "cold civil war" in historical context.

His pen and ink artwork supported his academic research in graduate school and frequently appeared in Shaman’s Drum, and the ecological journals Wild Earth, and The Trumpeter. It now occasionally appears in this blog.


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