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An Interview With 

Author and Witch, Christopher Penczak

Christopher Penczak

I first met Christopher Penczak several years ago, while we were still doing the Internet radio show, Full Circle. We had gone to the International New Age Trade Show (INATS) west, here in Denver.

Christopher was there promoting his new book at the time, The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft: Shadows, Spirits and the Healing Journey, and agreed to talk to us on the air.

I wrote to Christopher a few days ago, and asked for another interview, this time for CyberWitchcraft.  Again, he was gracious enough to agree to answer a few questions.  What follows is that interview.

I want to thank Christopher for taking time out of his busy schedule of writing and promotional touring, to do this interview.

How long have you been a practicing Witch, and how did you first come to your Path?

Christopher Penczak: I've been a witch for about 15 years now. I actually came to the path as a skeptic. A friend and mentor introduced me to it and I thought she was crazy, but as an agnostic former Catholic, I was searching for something that made sense, and I respected her, so I listened.

She invited me to a ritual where I had a very transformative experience. The ritual wasn't so moving, but the effects of the spell I had the opportunity to do really blew me away.

Also when she called down the Moon Goddess on that cloudy, full Moon night, the clouds parted and there was the Moon for the entire ritual. When she said farewell to the Moon Goddess, the clouds covered her up. I thought it could be a coincidence, but it was enough to get me to notice something was going on.

She taught me the basic of meditation and tarot, and when I got too far, she decided to send me to her teacher, Laurie Cabot. I began training with Laurie when I was in college, and continued on my path from there. 

CW: What was it that caused you to write your first book on Witchcraft?

CP: Well, my first published book was not specifically on Witchcraft, but on magick. It was City Magick. After my initial training and living in New Hampshire, I got a job in the Boston area and found myself not as diligent with my practice because I was in the city working late hours.

So I adapted ideas and techniques to do magick and meditation while in the city. That job only lasted a few years, and when I left, I thought it should be something other magicians and Witches should know about, even though I was back in the suburbs of NH. So I gathered my notes and it eventually formed a book.

My first Witchcraft book was The Inner Temple of Witchcraft. It's based upon a course I taught initially to a pagan meditation group that was seeking more formal experiences. The class was popular and I ended up teaching it many times, in several different formats - weekend intensives, seven week series and a once a month year long class.

I wrote the book to have a text book for the students, because even if you have a year to study, so much will not be conveyed in class lectures.

Questions and discussion lead to great ideas and topics, but sometimes you then forget other parts. And I got lots of requests for the class in areas that were not local to me, so I thought having a textbook and CD set would make it available for people anywhere. 

CW You have been quite prolific, writing at least one book a year, since about 2001.  The last couple of years, you’ve published several works a year. Where do your ideas come from, and how do you find enough material to fill so many volumes?

CP: Most of my books come from classes, workshops and trainings that I have designed and been using for a few years before they ever become books.

It allows me to work out a lot of material in my "day job" and have experience and inspiration to write. I'll know what format works best for people, have tested exercises, rituals and formulas, and be able to draw from people's experiences.

I keep a list of questions people ask and try to work those answers into the book material so people aren't left wondering "why..." after they explore the "how" of a particular technique. I'm a big believer in mixing both theory and practical experience, and also adding your own personal anecdote while not getting too far off topic.

I try to make the books feel like attending the class with a conversational tone, as those are the types of books I enjoy the most.

In fact, I try to write the books and teach the classes I wish I had when I was learning. My own personal spiritual practice leads me into topics that interest me and help my evolution, and I simply share what I experience with others.

CW: Was it hard for you to step out of the Broom Closet with your friends and family?

CP: It was easier to come out as a Witch than it was to come out as a gay man. I think I lost more friends about being gay strangely. They took the witchcraft in stride for some reason.

My mom actually trained with Laurie Cabot at the same time as me, so the family had to adjust to two Witches, not just one. It was a transition, but overall went well. My dad didn't understand, but was supportive.

My mother and I were the most religious ones of the household, so no one objected on religious grounds. Though I must admit between being gay and a Witch, I didn't keep many of my house, school, catholic school friends.

It's funny with all these social networking sites getting people from grammar school and high school popping up and wanting to "friend" me. I just want to say, "You do remember why you stopped talking to me, right?" But thus far all the reunions have been good.

CW: What was the hardest lesson you had to learn, that you credit your Path for teaching you?

CP: That's tough and there's probably a lot of answers.

I think the hardest lesson has been around the concept of Will, and understanding the difference between True Will and personal or ego's will. That what your soul wants is what you need, and that doesn't always coincide with what your personality wants.

Wanting is not bad, but understanding and exploring the difference between the two is a great act of magick. I originally wanted to be a musician, a rock star actually. I had a moderate amount of local success and I thought that with witchcraft, my success would be assured, as it worked so well for so many other things.

And it did work well for a while, but I got out of balance between listening and speaking, meditation and doing magick. I wasn't hearing what my guidance was trying to tell me, and it resulted in my loss of band, loss of job, loss of my chosen career, but when I did listen, it opened me up to something that I'm far more successful at, happy with, and enjoy.

Many of my previous endeavors - art lessons, music degree, training in marketing and promotion, public performance - all help me do what I"m doing now. What I do now will help me do whatever comes next.  

CW: How has being a Witch/Shaman changed who you are?

Honestly it's rather hard to relate to who I was before I got involved in witchcraft. Getting started at 18, I was young at the time though if you look at folks today it might be considered late now.

I think the main thing is that it has brought a sense of peace, releasing and healing unnecessary anger. It has also emphasized the importance of true love, Perfect Love, as a part of spiritual evolution, and understanding how it is different from sentimental love. 

You’re about to start teaching a year-long Inner Temple of Witchcraft apprenticeship. Can you tell us what that is, and what it involves?

As I said when I was talking about writing The Inner Temple, I get a lot of requests to teach. I've spent the last six years or so traveling quite a bit, teaching while touring for my books. I've done a lot of weekend intensives for my Witchcraft One through Five Temple series.

While I truly enjoy in person teaching best, it is both rough and expensive on me to travel two or three times a month or go on 10-20 day tours. Even with all these classes, people miss the first level and have to wait, or the weekend conflicts with something else.

The material is really best learned over the course of the year, and while some students do it on their own, or in small study groups, others are looking for mentorship and a greater community. My goal ultimately is to create a non profit temple and seminary, and this online work is the first step in testing out some formats for the school.

The apprentice group studies one lesson a month, receiving assignments from me they have to perform and write about, sending their homework via email to me, along with questions and concerns.

We use The Inner Temple Book as the text book, and they receive some unreleased material from my Book of Shadows that is more poetic in nature. I also record the lecture to the In Person apprentices, so the online students receive an MP4 file of the lecture.

Those who have difficulty meditating can use the CD companion to the Inner Temple, where all the lesson's meditations are recorded. And lastly there is a yahoo! group where people can discuss, share and ask questions to the community.

The class is currently closed with a bit over fifty students, and if all goes well I'll offer it again in the Spring or Fall, as well as continue on with levels two through five. 

CW: What else can we look forward to from you in the near future?

The Living Temple of Witchcraft, by Christopher PenczakCP: For books, I have Volume II of The Living Temple of Witchcraft  coming out in May. The first Volume is based on the mysteries of the Goddess, subtitled The Descent of the Goddess, using the seven gates of the underworld as the teaching model. The second volume is subtitled The Journey of the God, using the twelve Zodiac signs as the model to round out the Witch's education.

These two volumes together consist of my High Priest/ess training and culminates the Temple of Witchcraft series. The post scrip to the series might be releasing the grimoire/book of shadows that has only been available to some in person and online students thus far.

I also have in production a prosperity magick book that will explore the pagan perspective of growth, renewal and healthy balance in terms of money, as well as the spells, ritual and meditations to increase your good fortune.

I'm pretty excited about it, as it mixes what you traditionally think should go into a money magick book with both pagan philosophy and good old fashioned common sense.

I'm currently working on a book on trance techniques in modern witchcraft, a strange blend of British Tradition trance techniques with more tribal and herbal knowledge. It won't have any spells or rituals, but simply an exploration of techniques to alter consciousness and gather energy, from simple to more advanced. 

CW: Finally, given the opportunity, what is the one thing you would wish to tell every Witch?

CP: While witchcraft has a great deal of philosophy to it, it's essentially something you do, not something you just think about.

Our tradition sees the sacred in the material world and the practice of the world. Our actions evolve us on the path. We first learn magick in theory and concept.

Then we practice magick and put it into action, and ultimately we become the magick, embodying that which we set into motion, but we still don't stop learning and practicing, for each act takes us deeper.

Don't become stagnant. Rest at times and follow the cycles and patterns, but keep growing, renewing and evolving, like Nature Herself. 

CW: Again, I want to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule, and talking to our visitors here at CyberWitchcraft.  I know I learned several things, and I believe our readers have too.

You can get more information on Christopher Penczak, his books, and CD's at his website.

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