Interview: Mat Auryn.
Mat Auryn of The Astrarium agreed to sit down with us to talk about his life as a professional Witch and his work with the Tarot. Mat is a good friend of ours, and a talented, insightful practitioner of Magick, so we were thrilled when he said he’d take the time to dish out some goodies. Whether your brand of spiritual practice is of the Witchy variety or not, his answers are endlessly intriguing. Check it out:
What called you to Witchcraft in the beginning? What’s your origin story?
I am told that when I was an infant, my father would come up to my crib and place his pointer finger on my brow and I would start cracking up because of the tingling. He started doing this farther and farther away from my crib until he could be in another room and point in my direction and I would start cracking up.
When I was a child, I went to go live with my grandfather and the woman he remarried, Betty. I spent most of my summers running around the forests on which her home was situated, playing with my imaginary friends, who sometimes would be so real that in retrospect I question whether they were spirits of the forest or even the fae themselves.
Betty was very religious, and between going to church four days a week and my thirst for knowledge and the spiritual, I began diving into my Bible studies intensely. However, I was extremely unsatisfied with the contradictions I was finding. I think it was then that I lost my Christian faith. But I still had this deep craving for something spiritual that I couldn’t put my finger on.
While I believe my grandfather was doing the best he could with what he had, he was very strict – often to the point of being borderline abusive. One incident will stay with me my whole life. I must have been about eight years old and he had received a call that I was being disruptive at school. He called me out sick for a few days and locked me in my room. I wasn’t allowed to leave my bed and the power had to stay off. I could only go to the restroom or eat if he came in and allowed me to. While this was an excruciating time for me, it was also a huge awakening. You see, I had nothing to play with except my mind while in that bed, and during that time, I became acquainted with energy work, doing what I now realize is one of the most basic exercises someone who works with energy is taught. I also was very curious about how I went from a waking state to a dream state and would try to pay attention to how this shift in consciousness occurred.
After I had this profound almost “shamanic death” initiation, my curiosity was piqued. I’ve studied so many things since then. I had a spiritual wanderlust studying other traditions, but I would always return to Witchcraft. I kind of went full circle when I moved to New England and my boyfriend, Rory, and I decided to get involved with the Temple of Witchcraft.
What kind of Witchcraft do you practice? Can you describe what that means to you?
My personal practice is pretty eclectic and eccentric. I get inspiration for my personal Craft from everywhere – Wicca, Stregheria, Luciferianism, Chaos Magick, Hoodoo, Sabbatical Witchcraft, Shamanism, the New Age, etc. There’s a saying amongst a lot of witches that “witches use what works” and I strongly agree with this as well as, “witches use what they’re drawn to and what calls them.” Formally speaking, I’m a Temple Tradition Witch (Temple of Witchcraft) as well as a Sacred Fires Witch. The two traditions are actually pretty different. I’m fairly new to both traditions, but I’ve been practicing some form of Witchcraft or Occultism pretty much my whole life.
As a professional Witch, how do you avoid burn-out or energetic drain?
If I’m feeling burned out or drained, it indicates that I’ve been using my energy improperly, that I haven’t grounded or centered correctly or released the energy I’ve been working with. Whether I’m doing spell work or divination, I’m always conscious of grounding and centering myself. There’s a technique taught in the Temple, which was adapted from Laurie Cabot, which is extremely useful. In the Temple we call it “Clearance and Balance,” and I think the Cabot Tradition calls it “Total Health Clearance.” It’s essentially a technique where you take all the energy in your energy body and shove it out of yourself affirming that you’re clear of whatever energy you were working with or anyone’s energy you were connected to. I also think it’s important to drink a lot of water. Not only for hydration purposes, but I believe that water within the body allows one to be more conductive with energy and allows for it to flow out of your system easier.
However, this is easier said than done sometimes. When reading in Salem, MA during October you essentially read people non-stop all day. I remember one night I had been reading people for almost 10 hours straight and someone waiting for a reading said, “Jesus, it’s like a psychic sweat-shop in here!” and I just started busting up laughing, because that’s how it felt. When you have that many readings back-to-back, day-to-day, you tend to get a bit energetically sloppy with your psychic hygiene. But these are the things that essentially made me a stronger reader. There were days when I just wanted to quit and never read Tarot again, but it was very much like working out at a psychic gym, really working out and pushing those psychic muscles.
What was your first experience that really cemented your practice for you? I mean, the moment you knew it was all very real.
You know, that’s a really tough question. I’ve always known that Magick was real, you know, that there was a spirit realm and that we could affect reality. This doesn’t mean I’ve always been naïve about it. It just means that some part of my core being has always known it to be true. When I re-entered formal witchcraft, I didn’t have any hurdles of belief to make, which is very unlike my teacher, Christopher Penczak, who entered Witchcraft as a skeptic. I always find that pretty funny, as the man is a walking-talking occult encyclopedia and one of the most powerful human beings I’ve ever come across.
But there is one moment that was very revelatory for me. Before I had begun my training at the Temple of Witchcraft I decided to scope it out through astral travel. So in the astral, I kind of roamed the Temple grounds to check out the spirits that they were working with. Inside the house I came across a spirit, which I described to Christopher as looking like a scarecrow gnome with large green feather looking things on top of his head and what looked like Pinocchio-type strings hanging from his body. The spirit was distraught and said that no one ever paid attention to him anymore. Christopher had no idea what I was talking about.
Then one day while at the Temple, I saw the spirit! It was slightly different (as things tend to be in the astral, versus reality) and when I pointed it out to Christopher, he laughed and said “That’s Manny!” Manny is a stuffed animal of a mandrake. There used to be a tradition of hiding him in different places in the temple– whoever found him would hide him somewhere else. Apparently this tradition had stopped for quite a while and because of the message Manny gave me, the tradition started back up and still continues. I hope that Manny is much happier now.
My other “whoa” moment happened while I was doing this work to try to form a relationship with the Horned God. One day I left my body, and found myself in a void. There was nothing except this flickering in the distance, so I decided to draw closer to it. The flicker turned out to be a deity that I later described as Cernunnos (though he never gave his name). He was huge, like the size of planet huge. And just like a planet, I was orbiting him.
I told Christopher about this, saying it reminded me of a Witches’ Sabbath, which I laughed off as myth. He assured me that the Witches’ Sabbath was a real thing, but it was a mystery that doesn’t occur on this plane of reality. Rather, it occurs in the astral. So this was one of my moments where I was essentially like holy shit, these gods are real.
What got you interested in Tarot?
My mother gave me a Tarot deck when I was a freshman in High School and I would use the deck to give free readings to people at lunch. They were god-awful. I essentially would shuffle the cards, lay them out, and read each card’s keywords from the little-white-book without giving much of an interpretation. But I think working with the cards started flexing my psychic muscles without me realizing it. I remember one day I was giving a reading when a friend came over and I looked at her and said, “You look different. Something’s different about your energy.” I drew a card for her and it was the Empress, who is essentially the Mother of the Tarot. It turned out she was pregnant and was keeping it a secret. This intrigued me and I began taking Tarot more seriously.
When you sit down to do a reading, do you have any specific fetishes you like to keep around, or rituals (big or small) that you engage in first or afterwards?
Well, I have a huge chunk of museum grade Moldavite that I always wear. I don’t like to do any energy work or readings without it, because it just makes me feel balanced energetically in a way that I can’t describe. For some people Moldavite can be very intense, but I feel like it kind of stabilizes me in a way. I also have a palm stone of polished selenite that I like to work with. It’s a great stone for psychic ability and also acts as kind of an energetic air-freshener and re-energizer for me. When I do a reading, I ground and center. Sometimes I’ll light a candle, but I always align my three souls (as taught by Black Rose and Sacred Fires), connect with my spirit guides, and say a prayer to my gods that I see the right things, say the right things, convey the information that they need to hear, and that they openly receive the information that’s coming through. I’m also pretty Wiccan about it, in the sense that I ask that all information in the reading be for the Highest Good of All.
What’s your favorite thing about reading the Tarot?
I enjoy helping people. A lot of us readers talk about how we love it when the client cries. Not because we’re sadistic, but because we know it really impacted them and crying is usually the first breakthrough of emotional healing. I really enjoy when I know that I’ve helped someone by bringing them clarity, resolving something or healing them in some way. Other than that, I just really enjoy the Tarot and its history. I feel like Tarot is very much like Magick in that it’s something that you study for life and gain more understanding of the more you work with it and research it. I don’t think you can ever know everything there is to know about Tarot or Magick.
Is there anything you don’t like about it?
At times, it can feel like spiritual prostitution. A psychic reading with someone is one of the most intimate things you can experience with another human being other than sex. You’re essentially all up in their psychic field and there’s this huge emotional and psychic exchange going on. I like to frame it in the point of view of the Sacred Temple Prostitutes of ancient Pagan cultures. But as I would imagine with prostitution, sometimes you feel dirty about it. Every now and then, you come across someone who has so many issues or is swarming with entities or is extremely psychologically unhealthy and you leave the reading feeling like you just picked up some psychic STD or something.
Also, just like a Sacred Temple Prostitute, you’re trying to give them an experience that will spiritually affect them, but there are those who just want to have sex for sex’s sake – just as there are those who want readings to hear what they want to hear. Some people treat you like a snake-oils salesman. But for the most part, I haven’t had too many bad experiences with the hundreds of readings I’ve given over the years.
Do you practice other kinds of divination?
Tarot is my main man. But I do dabble with an oracle deck, and have been incorporating it into my Tarot readings. I usually loathe oracle decks but this one I really connect to. It’s the Connected and Free Alchemist Oracle. I work with a Pendulum quite often and am slowly working with runes more and more.
Do you use the Tarot for purposes other than divination? What’s your favorite use?
Absolutely! I use Tarot in spell-work. It’s actually become my favorite form of low Magick. I have a special deck dedicated just for spells. I’ll be teaching a class on casting spells with the Tarot at the Robin’s Nest in Bellingham, MA during November.
Do you have a favorite deck and/or card? Lay it on me.
My go-to deck for years has been the Shadowscapes Tarot, but my current favorite is the Lumina Tarot along with the Connected and Free Alchemist Oracle. Runner up is a tie between The Wild Unknown Tarot and Prisma Visions Tarot. Though I’d also give an honorable mention to the Wooden Tarot and the Tarot of the Hidden Realm. I also recently got the Cosmos Tarot and Oracle set which is amazing, but I haven’t spent too much time with them yet.
Okay, one last one- give us a one sentence words-of-wisdom snack to munch on as we close up this blog entry.
Witches don’t believe, they know through experience.
Mat Auryn is a professional Tarot reader, a natural psychic, a trained shaman, a reiki master, an energetic healer, a metaphysical teacher and a practicing initiated Witch. He is a student of the Temple of Witchcraft Mystery School, Modern Conjure Folk Magick, the Black Rose tradition and a member of the Coven of the Crown in the Sacred Fires tradition.