The Eight Fold Path

© 1986-1990; 1990-2000; 2001-2010; 2011: McGowan. Edited and adapted earlier versions for use in training a magical apprentice rite/workshop on Monday, 16 August 2010. No portion of this text may be copied or reproduced without permission from author:

The Eightfold Path to Altered States of Consciousness

In Ritual or spellcraft, the ritualist/magician/witch/Druid needs to incorporate the altered states of consciousness in order to tap into a higher consciousness and the field of energy from which to do magical workings. This is also the method utilized for connecting with otherworldly entities on their levels of existence – whether that be the otherworld, the faerie world, the spirit realm, ancestral realm, or Realm of Deities. The more elements that can be implemented for altered consciousness from the 8 fold path, the stronger your altered state of consciousness will become, and the stronger, more dramatic, and serious the working will be. Including all 8 forms of the Eight Fold Path will ensure complete success with your working – however, sometimes it is not logistically possible to include all 8.

By mastering your state of consciousness at will with intent helps focalize the energy and controls the magical current, opening communication with Deity and entities, and finding successful results. Altering one’s consciousness is not always safe, so one needs to be aware of what they are doing, the process by which they are operating within, and what methodology they utilize to achieve various results. It is the means to achieving Prana, Mana, or the Magical Life Force.


“Path of Breath” – The first of the Eightfold Path is accomplished by altering state of consciousness through specific forms of breathing. This is often achieved by emptying the mind, embracing a state of stillness, encompassing a state of serenity, and inducing a state of tranquility. Implementation of visualization, focused thought, projection, intention, concentration of intention, and trance work are all elements of this path. The highest point in the first path is projection of the astral body.


The second of the the Eightfold Path is the creation of sacred space and by doing deliberate intentional activities imbued with symbology, meaning, and projection. By creating a space in which to do the sacred, you achieve altering a point in time, space, and continuum. When you utilize symbols, spells, chants, tools, amulets, talismans, and mantras – it creates focus, rhythm, rhyme, replication, and circulates the energy achieved within and without.


The third of the Eightfold Path is by incorporating rhythmic repetitive motions, dancing, drumming, or music making. Dancing repetitively or wildly, ecstatically, or frantic rhythmic moving or motion of the body, spirit, and/or soul creates trance-like states, altered states of consciousness, and chemical/physical changes in the body, mind, and spirit. Circle dances, spiral dances, cone of power raising, drum circle dances, etc. will circulate, build up, and propel energy within and without.


The fourth of the Eightfold Path is accomplished by placing the physical body into an extreme state of deprivation, deprival, or change of environment from the usual comfort zone. This can include fasting, sensory deprivation, purification ordeals, etc. Some physical environments that can induce these atmospheres are sweat lodges, saunas, hot springs, isolation tanks, and/or pure darkness. By deprivation, the physical and mental body will react with its own energy fields creating visions, omens, oracles, prophecies, and hallucinations. The mind will generate images, ideas, thoughts, and processes that will assist the body to survive or transition.


The fifth of the Eightfold Path is communing with Spirits or entities that can include a “chemical” nature that poisons or possesses the physical body and mental state of the brain. Utilizing the “Spirits” or entities of plants and substances to chemically alter the mind/body into a state of consciousness. Drugs, alcohol, ethnobotanical plants with shamanic side effects are common instruments for this alteration. This path is onne of the most notorious instant methods for altering the state of consciousness, especially when one has difficultly doing it by means of their physical body without the introduction of a separate substance/spirit into the body. One needs to have a good relationship (or develop one) with the plant or spirit in question. Every plant, alcohol, or drug has a “spirit” – this is why alcohol is often referred to as “spirits”. It has a consciousness and by blending together that spirit with yours, will alter the state to the consciousness one seeks. This can include food and drink – as anything entering into the body alters its chemical and biological state. Cakes and Ale, Waters of Life, hosts, Body & Blood of Christ, sacrements, etc are common found types of this path in most religions. This can also include incense, oils, scents, and fragrances that can alter one’s being by the senses. Read my article on “Spirits” of Alcohol here:


The sixth path is the Path of the Flesh or Sexual Magic / Tantra / Love / Lust. The utilization of “sexual energy” as a means to open one’s self to the spirits. Sexual energy, generated alone or with a partner, raises the strongest forms of magical power, contact with prana, mana, the akh, the ba, the ka, and instantly alters the state of consciousness by a natural means of chemicals with reaction in the body that can even overpower the fifth path of the plant or altergen. This is accomplished with masturbation, Sexual thought, Sexual play or stimulation, Intercourse and/or interaction with others that can introduce this state instantly. This is often accomplished in ritual with Sex Magic, The Great Rite, Tantra, etc. The rituals of love and lust can also tap this energy and be embraced to alter the state of consciousness with which to connect to spirits, Deities, the Otherworld, and prana.


The seventh path is by going through an ordeal, a tragedy, embracing or experiencing pain or physical/emotional trauma. This, like chemicals or spirits, sex or deprivation, chemically and physically alters the mind, body, and spirit and launches a state of altered consciousness. By embracing this altered state – it becomes easier to focus that manifestation of power into projected will to focus on what is willed to be achieved. The intentional or careful use of pain to place the body into an altered state of consciousness is the most common ordeal one can manifest. Pain and endurance, trials, or challenges will effect change in state sometimes as powerfully equal as the path of the flesh or sex. This is often done in ritual or ceremony by means of flagellation, BDSM, tattooing, blood-runes carved into the flesh, the Sundance, cutting, wounding, or self infliction.


The final path of the Eight is Possession, Evocation, or allowing oneself to be ridden like a horse. This is the intentional act of permitting direct spirit-possession to bring Deities or spirts into the body for a short period of time. This can also be the most dangerous form of altering one’s consciousness. Some individuals are wired to do this, others are not. Much study and focus must be achieved before embracing this method.

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Brigid’s Sacred Flame at Kildare

Brighid’s Flame
* Kildare, Ireland *

For well over 1,000 years, if not 2,000 years or more, the sacred fire of the Goddess Brigid (now St. Brigid of Ireland) has existed and kept holy / sacred by her followers, priestesses, and/or members of her Order. In Ancient times, the Priestesses of Brighid kept her flame eternally lit with 19 Priestesses keeping vigil that the flame was never extinguished. As Christianity spread through Ireland, the Goddess Brigid was so integral to the Irish population that She could not be eradicated and thereby made a Saint by the Catholic Church. In the 6th century C.E., A nun iconified as “St. Brigid” came to Kildare and built a nunnery/monastery and school on the same site where the Brigid Priestesses were keeping vigil at the Fire Temple eventually absorbing and taking over the duties of the Priestesses now brandishing the torch for Christianity while keeping the Pagan faith alive just hidden. Through many Viking conquests, raids, and wars, the original wooden church, monastery, and foundation was eventually rebuilt as a stone Cathedral by the 13th century. Giraldus Cambrensis wrote in the 12th century that the Flame was attended by twenty “servants of the Lord” at the time of St. Brigid with Brigid herself being he 20th. When she died, the number went down to 19 with each of the nuns taking their turns at night and on the 2oth night, the nineteenth nun would put logs on the fire and St. Brigid would miraculously tend the fire which never went out. By the time Giraldus wrote that, the fire had been continually burning for 600 years, and thereby never had its ashes cleaned out, nor did the ashes ever seem to increase in size. Surrounding the fire was a legendary hedge that no male could ever cross. By Legend, one of Strong bow’s men attempted to cross the hedge and wound up going mad. Another had attempted but just as his leg crossed the threshold, his comrades pulled him back. Unfortunately the leg that did cross became maimed and he was crippled for the rest of his life. The magical hedge no longer exists, but in times of legend, protected the flame from male invaders by cursing them to go insane, die, become maimed, or have their penis wither. The Sisters of Brigid (Catholic nuns) continue the work in safeguarding the eternal flame in Solas Bhride which means “Light of Brigid”.Once during the 1200’s the Eternal flame was briefly extinguished by Henry of London, the Norman arch-bishop of Dublin who ordered it to be put out as he considered the tending process to be a Pagan practice and not to be tolerated. It was quickly relit by the locals and the Sisters continued doing this until the 16th century’s British Reformation. During the Reformation, King Henry XIII had a campaign to destroy Catholic monasteries and in this process, attacked the St. Brigid foundation at Kildare, thereby extinguishing the flame. On February 1st of 1807, the Bishop of Kildare, Daniel Delany, restored the Sisterhood of St. Brigid and thereby re-lighting the Eternal Flame of Brigid. The Sisterhood of St. Brigid’s mission was at this point to restore the Ancient Order and bring back the legacy and spirit of St. Brigid to Kildare (and thereby the world). The town center saw the Flame rekindled in the heart of Kildare’s Market Square once again as well, in 1993 by Sister Mary Teresa Cullen, the leader of the Brigidine Sisters at that time. From that point, the Perpetual flame was monitored and kept alive in their home and on February 1, 2006 – the flame was brought back to the center of the Market Square where it has been permanently housed in a large glass enclosed vessel (and numerous flames kept alive in the Sister’s houses). The St. Brigid’s Flame monument, centered in the photo above, was unveiled by President Mary McALeese on St. Brigid’s Day, February 1st, 2006.



The Otherworld, The Underworld, The Sidhe

Otherworld Map

The Otherworld

From the dawn of religious thought there has been belief in an Underworld and/or an Otherworld. A place were we are trapped when we die disturbed or without resolution that sits upon our world, sometimes referred to as Limbo, Hades, The Waiting Place, and the Inbetween. Many believe in a Hell and a Heaven. Others believe in a Summerland. Others do not. Some believe in Reincarnation. But just about everyone has an opinion about where we go when we die. The Otherworld is one such place that many deduce is where human spirits reside after death. But its not just a place for ghosts and poltergeists, but is also often labelled as a place of residence for all of the undead and supernatural from zombies to vampires, from faeries to trolls, from Gods to Goddesses, and the elemental spirits of nature. Celtic mythology calls “The Otherworld” (Orbis Alia) as the “Realm of the Dead, the Home of the Deities, or the stronghold of other spirits, and the Mighty Sidhe.” Folklore depicts the Otherworld as existing over the western sea or underground such as in the Sidhe mounds of Ireland and the British Isles, or as a realm layered like a transparency over the world of the living but invisible to our physical sight. I’m more of an advocate to the belief that the Elemental and Faerie Realm, Realm of Deities, and the Land of the Dead are all ‘separate’ realms … layered on top of each other as transparency-like layers of an onion in the worlds within worlds that make up the cosmology of universes in which we live. The Irish described their Otherwold as being underground and sometimes on islands in the Western sea. I believe that they actually saw it as a separate realm from the land of Faeries and the Sidhe and scholars or folklorists not being very well versed in the different dimensions just lumped these worlds into one solitary world separate from the land of the living. There are many different references by the Irish to the these realms including Tir na mBeo (“the Land of the Living”), Mag Mell (“Delightful Plain”), and Tir na nog (“Land of the Young”), among other names. This is one of the reasons I believe the Irish truly believed them to be different places. Irish mythology talk of these places to be a country where the inhabitants never grew old, got sick, died, where they were eternally at peace and happiness, and one year of occupation in that realm would equate to 100 human years. The Greeks spoke of a similar place called the “Elysium” (Greek mythology). Of course the Greeks and the Irish may have a shared origin in ancient Proto-Indo-European religion, so that might make sense. There are many folktales in both of these cultures where a beautiful young woman often approaches the hero and sings to him of these happy lands often offering him an apple or the promise of her love in exchange for his assistance in battle. The myths have him following her for a journey over the sea and are never seen again. Mythological and folklore elements involve boats of glass, chariots, horses, food, drink, and lures of love. Sometimes the mortal man returns to the human realm to find his previous family and friends deceased for ages and while believing to have been gone for a few years were actually gone for hundreds of years. (ex: Tale of Oisin, Thomas the Rymer, Rip Van Winkle, Tale of Bran and Branwen, etc.) There are quests in the tales and a magical mist always seem to descend upon them. They are always changed and affected with their contact to the Otherworld. The means by which many of these individuals cross over from the human realm to the land of spirits or the dead are abundant in all of Indo-European folklore and stories. These seem to occur in liminal places, gateways, or on special days of the year. The Gaelic festival of Samhain (November 1st) as well as Beltane (May 1st) are believed to be dates when the boundaries between the worlds become even more permeable than usual, and visitors from both realms can travel inbetween the realms, sometimes on purpose other times accidentally. Folklore is obsessed with the concern about preventing the intrusion of spirits into the human world and the loss of humans to the Otherworlds. Many spells, charms, superstitions, and rituals exist through history to prevent the crossing over of humans and entities between these dimensions. Some believe that Irish folklore is a heaven of sorts. Interpreters of Irish poetry and story telling, claim the Otherworld is simply a land of paradise, happiness, and summer. I am of the opposite view that the realms those stories tell about is quite yet a completely different world than the land of the Dead. I believe that there is a land of Faeries (Sidhe, Faerieland or Faerieworld), a land of the Dead (Otherworld), a land of Demons (Underworld / Hades / Hell), a land of Deities (Summerland or Heaven). Land of the Dead is what I refer to when I discuss the Otherworld. Brittany sees this as an island someplace west of Great Britain. When the souls of the dead leave the human body, they go to the homes of fishermen and knock desperately on their doors for ferry to these islands. The fishermen would leave their homes and ferry the dead to these lands in ghostly ships called “Bag an Noz”. There are Christian beliefs on the British Isles that talk about a Galicia northern coastal village called ‘San Andres de Teixido’ where a little hermitage consecrated to Saint Andrew houses his bones. According to Tacitus this is where the ‘heavens, seas, and earth end’. It is believed by many that if you don’t visit this place when you are living, you must visit after you die in the form of a serpent or lizard, in order to take your journey to the land of the dead, according to words from Jesus to Andres. Many Spanish authors also claim that this is the starting place for the souls of the dead on their trip to the Other World. The Irish God of Gateways and of the Sea, Manannon Mac Lir, is often seen as a gatekeeper between these Isles of the Dead and the Lands of the Living. In modern fantasy, such as in the tales of the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the gateway to the realms of the dead or the world of demons are referred to as “The Hellmouth”. This serves as a magical portal between the worlds. Supposedly as a place of increased supernatural energy and is a gate that attracts as a hot spot demons and other supernatural creatures. While completely created by the filmmakers, the concept is based off the gateways to the realm of the dead found in mythologies. The “Otherworld” as the “Spirit World” or “Land of the Dead” is seen as a habitation realm of spirits. The belief in spirits come from the theory that the Earth itself and all living things on the Earth have spirit counterparts that existed before the physical creation, and a living soul consists of a spirit body united with a physical body. The spirit existence is composed of organized and refined spirit matter that extends to all life, including plants, animals, and humans. Even the Christian bible refers to plant spirits as being created as spirits before they were created with physical bodies (Moses 3:5, 9). Under these beliefs, there are premortal and postmortal spirit worlds. Premortal spirits exist originally in “heaven” where monotheistic faiths believe their God lives. There is belief by many that the spirit after leaving the body from death, yet before resurrection, is taken by an angel or a reaper, to the home of God who gave them life, they are then often judged and/or assigned to a place of paradise or a place of hell and ‘outer darkness’. Postmortal spirits inhabit a world where they reside and converse together the same as what occurs in the human world. There is belief that they conduct similar activities, labor, and life as they did when they were living; it is a place where they learn and prepare for the next life as an extension of mortality. Those at unrest or unfinished with their mortal existence, often haunt or are trapped inbetween the human realm and the Otherworld or the Underworld. Some equate these realms to be located in Middle Earth or akin to Hollow Earth Theory.

Mythological Placenames

The Underworld

is often a realm that corresponds to what some refer to as ‘the Otherworld’. In the studies of religion and mythology, this is a generic term that applies to ‘the afterlife’ or any place where newly dead souls go. It is often seen as a nuetral or dystopic realm in the afterlife, instead of the Heaven or Hell so prophesized by the religion of Christianity. It is also believed to be by many as a realms that resides atop our own where the unrested / disturbed / or spirits reside until they can pass on to the land of the dead. To some it is a waiting place or a limbo. Others label the Underworld as Hell or Hades. The Underworld is referred to as Mctlan by the Aztec, Kurnugia by the Babylonians, Naraka or Niraya by the Buddhists, Annwn or Mag Mell by the Celts, Yum gan (??) by the Chinese, Aaru / Anubis / Duat / or Neter-khertet by the Egyptians, Toonela by the Estonians, Tuonela by the Finnish, Elysium / Asphodel Meadows / Hades / Tartaros by the Greeks, Sheol / Gehenna by the Hebrew, Naraka / Yamaloka by the Hindu, Uku Pacha by the Inca, Adlivun by the Inuit, Jahannam / Narr / Janna / Barzakh / Araf by the Islam, Yomi / Jigoku by the Japanese, “Ji-Ok” ?? ?? by the Koreans, Aizsaule by the Latvians, Hawaiki by the M?ori, Pellumawida / Degin / Wenuleufu / Ngullchenmaiwe by the Mapuche, Metnal / Xibalba by the Maya, Bulu / Burotu / Murimuria / Nabangatai / Tuma by the Melanesians, Gimle / Hel / Niflheim / Valhall / Vingolf by the Norse, Ekera by the Oromo, Kasanaan / Empiyerno by the Philippine, Avaika (and other names) by the Polynesians, Shipap by the Pueblo, Inferno / Avernus / Orcus / Hades / Pluto by the Romans, Podsvetie / Peklo / Nava by the Slavs, Dilmun / Kur / Irkalla by the Sumerians, Guinee by the Vodou, and Hiyoyoa by the Wagawaga. The Underworld is ruled by demons, spirits, veli, Cerberus, ghosts, and other supernatural guardians, as well as Baiame / Eingana by the Aboriginal, Allu / Anu / Anunnaku / Ereshkigal / Etemmu / Gallu / Humbaba / Mamitu / Nergal / Utnapishtim by the Akkadians, E Bukura e Dheut by the Albanians, Spandaramat by the Armenians, Mictlantecuhtli / Mictecacihuatl/ Chalmecacihuilt/ Chalmecatl by the Aztec, Erra / Nergal / Ninlil / Sursunabu / Ur-shanabi / Utnapishtim by the Babylonians, Batara Kala / Setesuyara by the Balinese, gNyan by the Bon, Yama / Emma-0- / Yanluo by the Buddhist, Mot by the Canaanites, Aed / Arawn / Cwn Annwn / Donn / Gwyn ap Nudd / Mannanon Mac Lire / Pwyll / Sluagh by the Celts, Gui / Yanluo by the Chinese, Demons / Devil / Satan / Lucifer by the Christians, Aken / Aker / Am-heh / Amunet / Ammit / Andjety / Anubis / Apep / Apis / Astennu / Ha / Imiut / Isis / Mehen / Naunet / Nehebkau / Nephthys / Nun / Nut / Osiris / Ptah / Seker / Thoth by the Egyptian, Jabru by the Elamites, Vanapagan by the Estonians, Charun / Culsu / Februus / Mania / Mantus / Nethuns / Tuchulcha / Vanth by the Etruscans, Kalma / Kipu-Tytti / Kivutar / Lovitar / Surma / Tuonen akka / Tuonetar / Tuoni / Vammatar by the Finnish, Cerberus / Charon / Hades / Keres / Persephone / Styx / Thanatos / Tartaros by the Greeks, Sasuleti by the Georgians, Ta’xet / Tia by the Haida, Yamaraja by the Hindu, Kachina by the Hopi, Ala by the Ibo, Supay / Vichama by the Incan, Dwi Shri / Ndara by the Indonesian, Pana / Sedna by the Inuit, Mala’ikah by Islam, Hisa-Me / Hotoke / Ika-Zuchi-no-Kami / Jikininki / Shiko-Me / Shiti Dama / Shi-Ryo / Yama by the Japanese, Dur by the Kassite, Preas Eyssaur by the Khmer, Veli / Velu mate / Zemes mate by the Latvian, Mot by the Levantine, Kalunga by the Lunda, Kewa by the Maori, Xibalba by the Maya, Egei / Ratumaibulu / Samulayo by the Melanesian, Chepi by the Narragansett, Estanatelhi by the Navajo, Mctanteot by the Niguiran, Garmr / Hel / Ran by the Norse, Angra Mainyu / Azhi Dahaka / Peri by the Persians, Bathala / Demonyo Demon / Lucifer / Dyablo Diablo / Satan / Diyos God by the Philippine, Horo by the Phoenicians, Men by the Phrygian, Hikuleo (and many others) by the Polynesians, Picullus by the Prussians, Iyatiku by the Pueblo, Cereberus / Dea Tacita / Dis Pater / Egestes / Fames / Inferi Dii / Larenta / Letum / Libitina / Mors / Orcus / Pluto / Proserpina / Viduus by the Romans, Dyavol / Satanaya by the Russians, Yambe-akka by the Saami, Amotken by the Salish, Chebeldei / Kul by the Siberians, Crnobog / Flins / Marzana / Nyia by the Slavs, Edimmu / Ekimmu, Urshanabi (and many others) by the Sumerians, Cur by the Tamil, Heros by the Thracian, Erlik by the Turkic, Baron Cimetiere / Baron La Croix / Baron Samedi / Ghede / Maman Brigitte / Marassa Jumeaux by the Vodoun, Tumudurere by the Wagawaga, Oya by the Yoruba, Nga by the Yurak, and Uhepono by the Zuni. [Retrieved from “”]Many believe the underworld is hidden within the depths of the Earth, some say the center of the Earth. According to Greek Mythology, it is the Kingdom of the Dead and ruled over by Hades (residing at the very depths) who is only concerned with increasing the population of the Underworld. It is surrounded by a series of rivers such as the Acheron (river of Woe), Cocytus (river of lamentation), Phlegethon (river of fire), the Styx (river of unbreakable oath), the Lethe (river of forgetfulness). Across the rivers lies the gate to the mortal realm which is guarded by Cerberus. Many believe the dead area ferried across the Acheron by Charon to Hermes who leads them to the gates. Only those who can afford fare, with coins placed on their lips or eyelids receive passage. The rest are trapped between the worlds. Once in the Underworld you cannot leave. At the Gates, those are judged by Rhadamanthus, Minos, and Aeacus who pass sentence – those who are good go to the Elysian Fields, the rest go through ordeals and often to the very depths of the Underworld. Many see the Underworld as an unpleasant realm of misery, death, despair, darkness, and shadow.

The Sidhe or the Lands of the Fae
Ireland and the British Isles talk of an underground dimension or lands across the western seas hidden by mists where the original inhabitants of Ireland now live. The Mighty Sidhe, the Tuatha De Danann, perhaps the Fomorians, were all driven to this Underworld by waves of invaders such as the Gaels who came from Spain led by chieftain Mil Espeine. It is believed they had no other choice but to take refuge under the sidhe which denotes ‘hills where the long barrows lay and which is used also to name a special kind of fairies in Ireland and in the Scottish Highlands, the daoine sidhe.’ There are believed to be Knocks (Irish cnoc) which are hollow hills inhabited by large communities of faeries often led by a Kind and/or Queen. The most common sites of which are located in Ireland and known as: Knockma (ruled by Finvarra of the Connaught fae); Knockany (ruled by Aine of the Munster Fae); and Newgrange in county Meath where the Angus og myth takes place and archaeological ruins still exist; and in Brittany the castro of Altamira led by Xana Mega, the Queen of the Fairies. Many believe that during certain times of the year, sidhe can be found by humans as the faeries can often be seen dancing under the moonlight. Others believe there are faerie gates or portals that connect these realms, from archways in trees, holes in stones, and fairie rings of mushrooms. The Sacred Isles of the Western Sea are known as Isles of Paradise where supernatural beings reside from Sirens, to Mer-folk, and the Lands of the Young. The waters surrounding these isles have magical properties. Sterile women perform rituals at La Lanzada Beach (Galicia) where nine successive waves wash over them to help them become pregnant in these lands. It is also on some of these Islands that the Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes reside. Anglesey (Min), located on the Northern Welsh Coast, is a sacred island of the druids of Britain; the Scilly islands, where archaeological remains of proto-historical temples have been found; and some of the Hebrides Islands, which were, in the Gaelic tradition, home of ghosts and demons: on one of them, Skye, the Irish hero Cuchulainn was educated by the war goddess Scathach. [wikipedia]