Components of the Self
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Article based upon the teachings from the Grigorian Witchcraft Tradition BOS (1998)
Article featured in Metaphysics Sharing Online Blog (1999)
Written by Angelina Rosenbush
In Wicca and witchcraft, it is often said that there is no one set dogma, no one book of truth, as is seen in some opposing ecclesiastic faiths. However, with this being said it is commonplace for various occult-based groups, organizations, traditions, etc. to pave the initial ways of the soul as a non-physical yet vital principle in working magick. How that way is described and how the soul may be interpreted varies greatly by tradition. Now, many simply call this spirit, as generally speaking in theology the spirit is what aligns with your universe (or how you see God) and the soul is tied to the mundane human emotions. In the practice of witchcraft various traditions apply various philosophies both ancient and modern as ways to describe the soul as an aspect of the self. Many equating soul and spirit as one and the same. Yet if we look to even ancient philosophy the soul and spirit as components of self do take on multiple views. Aristotle wrote in his work De Anima II there are essentially three substances to the universe Matter, Form, and the combined compound of matter and form. (University of Washington, Faculty Education 2004). Aristotle also saw the soul though as not something that could be separated from the body, and it did not exist mentally independent from the body, yet the soul in his view was essential to understanding life. This may put a damper on those who like to look to Aristotle’s’ work regarding discussing the soul in the same context as astral travel.
Yet, there are in other philosophies from the ancient world that took a different view. The followers of Plato’s work viewed the soul as an immaterial substance that was akin to the Gods of ancient Greece yet bound by the physical world. In having the experience of change and becoming (growing). The ancient Egyptians had a much more descriptive view of the soul and spirit, however. To the ancient Egyptians the soul and all life was created by the Gods. And as such these things were all empowered through the essence of Heka (the God who personified this “magic” energy wielded by the Gods). And the soul was then separated into multiple parts. These parts included the Ba (personality) this is what makes the individual. The Ba is what is capable of visiting with or speaking directly to the Gods (through the astral) while still living. The second part is the Ren (or true name) this is what was believed to allow the soul to continue receiving power after death, as long as the name carried on so too did this flow of power. This is where many occult writings may have been inspired from to draw on the idea of magickal names, a name that was private and to be protected from ill amongst initiates alone. As it was believed by the Egyptians knowing the name of someone was a direct link to their energy and to harm a name would harm the person. However, in so doing there was a price to pay or what might be interpreted today as karma on the afflicter’s own soul but more on this another time. Next, was the Ka this is the vital essence. The Ka is what distinguished between alive and dead, some have stated this is related to the eastern view of Prana or life’s breath, but the Egyptians saw the Ka as being nourished not by air, but by food and drink. Which is how it was persevered after the death of the body by making offerings to the dead through feasts. Then there is the Shuyet, otherwise called the darker self or shadow. Yet, this was not considered a destructive or negative aspect to the soul, rather it was simply how the soul manifested after death in the form of a shadow figure. Then there is Jb or the heart. To the Egyptians’ this was the hub of human emotion not just a physical organ and was tied to the soul as it was also the center of one’s own will, thoughts, and drives and as such it is what allowed you to gain access to the afterlife through your deeds and drives. Then the last form the Akh the Akh is actually the combination of the Ba and Ka, that when combined they become the immortal self this was spirit. This represented the soul as having achieved enlightenment and become pure spirit after death. And this part of the soul did not go along with the others in the transition to the afterlife either, instead this portion of the self (if successful) achieved a place amongst the stars. This is also the part of the self that would be allowed to revisit loved ones after death, through dreams or other means.
Today the soul in western philosophy is not broken into as many parts or even made part of a dualistic view. Instead the soul is simply applied in a minimalist three part philosophic view of life, the soul or spirit, the mind, and the body. Yet, there are other ways of viewing spirit and incorporating its’ relationship either within or without to the body, blood, mind, etc. when it comes to magick. And these ways vary by tradition. In Grigorian Witchcraft Tradition our view inspired by the ancient Egyptians and our founding traditions principalities in working with both the quarters and the Grigori. For us the components of self are broken down into five essential parts. The Body, as associated to the Earth Element and represents our physical form and journey on this plane of existence. The Mind or Wisdom, as represented by the Air element and speaks to us as what we learn, knowledge that we gain both in study and through experience and wisdom through reflection. Our will, as recognized by the element of Fire. For this is our drives, our desires, what pushes us forward or the fears we sometimes face in the shadow of the flame. Next, we recognize the Ousia (pronounced Ooo Saw). Ousia is a Greek word for essence, in the sense that it is what makes up a living thing. This is the truth of what we are. All of what we are is encased in water or Ousia that which is the waters of life. As such it is where we draw our collective essence of all witches, this is the intangible emotions, personalities, and aspects of self that develop from the experience of the previous three elements. Lastly there is the spirit or soul, tied to the fifth element in our practice Spirit as well. This is the aspect that is linked (for initiates in our tradition) under the oath of the Grigori. This is the ascending guiding force that links us on the web of life and allows us to connect through the astral plane via the crown chakra to the Gods and Goddesses themselves. It is the spirits within us, and through the Grigori that link us to the stars. For more in-depth information on both the meaning and practice behind the Components of Self, you will need to either have taken one of the Grigorian Witchcraft Tradition courses, attended a lecture on this, or become a member. For more information on all these things please feel free to contact Grigorian Witchcraft.