5 + LESSON: Introduction to Fatework
What is fate?
In modern English we use the word fate to mean a final or expected outcome. That lawsuit sealed the company’s fate. We talk about someone or something’s fate when referring to the circumstances that befell them, especially when those circumstances were unfortunate. It was an ill-fated encounter. And, among religious folks, fate is thought of as the hidden will that determines how things are and how they will be.
Etymologically, the word fate comes from Latin fatum meaning that which has been spoken, implied, spoken by the gods.
Destiny is another word for fate. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines destiny as a predetermined course of events often believed to be irresistible and immutable.
Etymologically, destiny comes from Latin destinare meaning to make firm or to establish¸ once again implied, established by the gods!
There’s also the word wyrd, W + Y + R D, which no longer exists in modern English, but in Old English wyrd was the word for fate. The modern English, weird, W + E + I + R + D, meaning uncanny, unusual, or supernatural is a derivative of the older term wyrd, W + Y + R + D. When Shakespeare took a line from Scottish authors and referred to his witches in MacBeth as the Weird Sisters, he didn’t mean that they were just unusual or supernatural, he meant that they had the power to control fate, that they were the personification of Fate.
Wyrd can be directly translated as that which comes or as that which will become. Wyrd is a descendant of the Proto-Indo-European *wer- meaning to turn, to wind, or to bend. In modern English we still associate turning with becoming and with fate. We say that one thing turns into another. Or that sometimes things just turn out that way.
My witchcraft teacher, Griffin, would refer to spells as turnings. A student told me a few years ago that “spell turning” is now a pretty popular phrase in fantasy novels and video games that refers to the idea of deflecting a spell or maybe reversing it. But, in traditional British-Essex Witchcraft, turnings are not for redirection of an attack; turnings are a redirection of fate!
So, here’s the Human+Spiritwork definition of fate for you.
Fate is the consequences that result from relationships between spirits.
[ 6.02.04 The Weaver & the Divine Trance ] "We, too, in our Divine Trance can see patterns of consequence playing out across time and space.”
Fatework is about making intentional changes in the relationships between spirits with the intent of changing the consequences or potential consequences of those relationships.
Fatework can be magical if the relationships we’re working with are hidden or unlikely. Think of the initiatory thresholds we’ve explored, like working with our capacity to love ourselves in Phase Three. Learning to love ourselves and connecting with our own Soul and Center can absolutely change our fate.
Fatework can be pragmatic as well. Choosing to buckle my seatbelt might change my fate. Although, things done without the slightest nod to the occult don’t really need a title like fatework. Then again, sometimes these simple things might deserve the title if the reason we took certain mundane actions was on account of a nudge from our spiritual senses. When seeing-the-future is involved, even if all we do is reschedule an appointment, I think that still counts as fatework.
In fact, let’s use a super mundane example to examine the workings of fate a bit further.
If I leave my glass of water near the edge of the table, and I have cats, then my glass is likely to be knocked off the table and broken. My Elder wisdom, my lived experience, tells me it is so! I can see the future! Uncanny!
The glass of water is in a number of relationships with other spirits. Which of these relationships should I seek to influence if I want to avoid the glass getting broken?
Do I try to change the nature of my cats? Do I try to eliminate gravity, so that the glass will rise instead of fall? (Probably easier than changing the nature of cats.) Or, do I move the glass away from the edge?
Now, that may seem like a silly example, but I worked at an occult shop long enough to hear from plenty of folks who would walk in and ask why their spells and turnings weren’t working, and we’d discover they were targeting gravity instead of moving the glass.
This tendency to target less-effective relationships comes partly from our desires for intensity and for control. Also, the Fiend, our personified resistance to change, would love for you to target gravity instead of moving the glass. You just aren’t concentrating hard enough! You must believe the glass will float! Another reason we target less-effective relationships is because we haven’t fully embraced the Elder’s knowledge of how to do more with less.
Plus, if we’re working on something that has been a terrible burden, surely we’ll need to do some hardcore heavy-lifting magic to change it. If the magic was easy or simple, or if it didn’t even require magic at all, that would invalidate our suffering. We’d likely have to deal with grief from not having changed the thing sooner. All those years of broken glasses…
Something else to keep in mind when creating change in the web of relationships: consent.
[ 3.08.07 Baneful Magic: The Maker is Made ] “Baneful magic usurps the free will of another person or being. It is magic that forces change upon another spirits.”
Even if changing the nature of cats was somehow the simplest way to keep my glass from breaking, cats are strong-willed. Generally, they don’t like being told what to do, so they certainly won’t appreciate being told how to be.
Whereas, if I simply keep my glass away from the edge, it’s unlikely the glass will mind. Typically, glasses don’t have a strong sense of where they want to be, so there’s no free will for me to usurp. I say, typically, because if you walk up to my altar and try to move my familiar’s cup of tea, you might feel some resistance, not just from my familiar, but from the cup itself. That cup has identity; it has a job to do! It’s a portal to the hidden realms that just happens to look like a cup. It might bite your fingers if you try to move it.
Magical cups aside, my point is that fatework is often about identifying the path of least resistance and making a subtle shift—moving the glass. But, let’s look at this in the context of a more complicated situation—like divorce!
[ 5.11.07 Cords of Commitment ]“The word commit comes from the Latin committere meaning to be joined.”
Some folks can separate gently. Conscious un-coupling is the popular phrase these days. But, divorce can also be hostile, petty, and destructive. And, as far as our fate, we see the consequences of this kind of hostile, un-healed divorce all the time: there’s great potential for personal trauma, material loss, and collateral damage to folks around us.
Perhaps I’m open to some conscious un-coupling, but it takes two to tango. Maybe my ex is dead set on having a petty party. Do I reach into their spirit and try to change their behavior against their will? That’s baneful magic.
Now, if someone is trying to extricate themselves from an abusive or dangerous relationship, I’m certainly not going to judge them for doing spiritwork directly upon the soul of the person threatening their lives or the lives of their children or loved ones. To quote the show Firefly, because I need to do that once per phase or so:
“If someone tries to kill you; you try to kill ‘em right back!”
Yes, the toucher is touched, the maker is made, and doing baneful magic is going to forge a new hidden relationship with the person our magic is meant to affect, but:
[ 3.08.07 Baneful Magic: The Maker is Made ] “…baneful magic is more rightly called the Magic of Desperation. The magic of folk who feel they have nothing to lose, naturally, looks different from the magic we might practice.”
But, thing is, our willingness to do baneful magic isn’t the same as our ability to do it. Just because we can justify it, doesn’t mean we can make it work. Our willingness to throw a punch at a professional boxer doesn’t mean we’ll land the hit, or that, even if it lands, it’ll have any effect. Why would you try to out manipulate a master manipulator? One solution is to hire a professional spiritworker that provides cursing services and is experienced in baneful work. There are some folks I’ve met that feel genuinely ethical and that do this kind of work for people in dire need. But, there are also folks who, having dedicated their lives to the baneful arts, are quite likely to bite the hand that feeds, cursing everyone they touch for sport. That may sound dramatic, like, oh my goodness, the throwing of curses has warped their soul! It’s the dark side of the force! But, honestly, it’s not a phenomenon unique to mystics. I’ve met some professional boxers and fighters who are the most humble, ethical, folks—protectors. And I’ve met some who are bloodthirsty assholes, always looking for a fight. I don’t believe that all power corrupts, as the saying goes, but the power to control others coupled with an unchecked desire for control is a dangerous thing.
In any case, my suggestion is, when possible: don’t box with a boxer. Don’t try to magically manipulate your manipulative ex. Don’t try to change the cat. And, before you try hiring an assassin (because people who stab others in the back for a living may stab you in the back) -- instead, cast your weaving eyes upon the web and see if there are other relationships that you can work with consensually to turn fortune in your favor. We must not assume that a situation is desperate just because we feel desperate.
Firstly, we can look to our hidden friends. It might be baneful for me to force change on a spirit outside of me, like my ex, but my ex and I both exist inside a Spirit of Place. Maybe the Spirit of Place is willing to help. Of course, humans have strong free will, so even the spirits of which we are part, like the Spirit of Place, don’t have complete say over our actions, but they do have strong influence. Maybe I can’t change the nature of a cat, but the god of the forest where I live with that cat may be a bit more convincing.
Secondly, we can look at the cord between ourselves and the person who wishes us harm. While forcing change on that other person is baneful, creating change in the cord between us is not. Some percentage of that cord is an extension of my spirit, so in that part of the territory of the relationship, my will is primary. It is not baneful to create change in a cord that I helped created. Although, the cord created in an abusive relationship is likely to have a very strong trance attached to it. There’s a reason we didn’t leave at the first sign of trouble. There’s a pattern in this relationship that is hypnotic; that has become habit. Trying to change the nature of a long-term relationship can feel like trying to push a train off the tracks with our bare hands, like trying to change gravity to keep the glass from breaking again.
So lastly, if it feels like fateworking the cord isn’t effective, then we can get even more granular and look at our relationship to the relationship. Everything is still here, I’m just gonna move the glass back a few inches. It’s a subtle shift.
In the example of divorce, there’s much about this kind of fatework we can learn by reviewing Phase Three. How have I prioritized this relationship-identity? Could I change my identity-priorities? I don’t know…can I? Who owns my Soul? I do.
When considering what it might mean to change our relationship to a relationship, please note that I’m not talking about replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts or anything like that. I am not talking about trying to remove or replace or eradicate the part of ourselves that’s angry or frustrated or scared. Moving the glass back doesn’t mean ignoring what’s going on inside or what’s going on outside.
Moving the glass is: What if I choose to believe that the relationship I have with this other person is strictly superficial, surface, existing only in the physical realm? It’s just an issue of proximity, like touching the stove. Ouch! It really, really hurts. But it’s not a deep, philosophical, fate-shaping, meaningful hurt.
When this other person speaks to me, what if I felt their words like a headache? Maybe it’s an excruciating headache, but it’s still just a headache. It’s not deep. It’s not meaningful. It’s just this mundane, temporary pain.
Now, maybe at one time this relationship was deep and meaningful. Maybe at one time it impacted my Center, shaped my destiny, spoke to the nature of my spirit, and so on. But like the “shift my spirit” part of our spiritworking protocol, I can shift my belief in the nature of the relationship.
I used to sometimes be called upon to do heavy-duty curse-breaking and exorcism type workings for folks in my private practice. One of my favorite ways to ward and make sure none of it followed me home? I’d break trance by turning the dial of my spirit to atheist. Sorry, I don’t believe in the hidden realm anymore! It doesn’t exist. I don’t exist there. After a few days, I’d shift back into my animistic self and follow-up with some diagnostics and cleansing. My hidden friends never took it personally, they knew the drill!
In the case of shifting our relationship to a relationship, I’m suggesting that instead of going full atheist, to just go athe-ish with regard to that one aspect of your life. Maybe throw in some nihilism. There’s no hidden anything to it. No meaning in it.
At the same time, we can amplify our hidden awareness and sense of the depth and meaning of another relationship in our life, bringing it to the foreground. What if I chose to believe that my feelings of deep love for myself are incredibly important and meaningful? What if I noticed those moments and flashes of deep love with the same wonder I feel when the clock says it’s 11:11? Whoa! I just had an awesome feeling of love and okayness there for a second. What does it mean? That’s like the fifth time this week! If you feel like you don’t ever experience love for yourself, remember that love in our language here just means consciousness and presence. So, at a minimum, every time you do spiritwork, it’s an expression of deep love for yourself. What if I treated my relationship to my soul as if it were the deepest, most complex, most important cord in my world?
How might the consequences of being centered in deep and abiding love for myself be different from the consequences of being centered in deep and abiding fear and loathing of someone else?
Remember that the Center is our Seat of Manifestation.
Remember that Manifestation is a way of saying Purpose, that which we put forth!
Remember that we are in relationship to everything we create.
And fate is what? The consequences of our relationships.
Shift your spirit. Choose your center. Change your fate.
A question that might arise as you ponder fatework: Can we, instead of altering relationships between spirits, try to alter the consequences of those relationships directly? What if one plus one equaled three, just for a moment?
We can practice warping reality and consequence on our own, but there are consequences to messing with consequence! Imagine that. Because, here’s the thing: consequence is a spirit. Fate is a spirit. Or, in some spiritual traditions, the Fates are more than one spirit. And, do you really want to go against or try to usurp their Will?
[ 4.11.04 Introduction to Iron & Influence ] “Our first goal is to start recognizing spirits with Iron Will around us, spirits of great influence. And let’s notice what kinds of spirits they tend to be able to influence, upon what common ground does their influence have effect.”
The Spirits of Fate have the greatest influence. They are the wyrd sisters with their iron cauldron, stirring the stars. Their common ground is the web of relationship that connects all things and all beings. Traditionally, when personified, they don’t tend to be depicted as the friendliest folk or the easiest to impress or please.
“O Fortune, Fortune! All men call thee fickle.” + Romeo & Juliet
Although, influencing influence can be done.
“Fortune favors the bold.” + Latin proverb
Of course, fortune favors the bold sounds a bit like fate favors the strong, the vigorous. What’s that got to do with Elderhood?
Well, our Hallowed Elderself is not so different from the spirits of fate, and where there is common ground, friendships can be forged. Like the Fates, our Elder experience yields foresight, an ability to predict consequences. Like the Fates, the Elder embodies consequence—our face showing the results of years of laughter and tears, of sun and rain, and most especially of time!
And, further, if as Elder we learn to enter the Divine Trance, then we, too, are Weavers. We, too, can be creators of the consequences of our choices. We won’t be the only creators of consequence, but we can contribute.
[ 6.02.04 The Weaver & the Divine Trance ] “We, too, can influence the web... [ ... ] We, too, can cut ties, can cull, can make hard choices about our relationships and the patterns we allow to emerge in the tapestry of our lives."
And, in making those hard choices, we, as Elder, can have empathy for the spirits of Fate, so often considered fickle, cold, and heartless. But, perhaps they only seem fickle if we believe that they should serve our happiness. I would argue that the fates have the steadiest of hands and hearts. How deftly they marshal the chaos of our collective Free Will into a dance. How dutifully and tirelessly they work in service of the collective Soul.