What is the Left Hand Path? The Great Divide of Occultism

The Great Divide

Left Hand Path Art Print Courtesy: Divine Mania

There is a sharp divide between schools of occult study and magic. This divide is the left hand path and the right hand path. So, what is the left hand path? What does it represent?

The left-hand and right-hand paths are labels that refer to styles of magic and occult practices. These practices include, but are not limited to, Satanism, Setian, Qliphothic magic, black magic and also, dark paganism.

It is compared to Right hand path practices, such as Ceremonial Magick, Qabalah, The Golden Dawn, Rosicrucian, and other forms of angelic magic, or white magic. These labels, of right hand and left hand are a convention of naming that is useful to those within the occult who seek to associate with certain styles of occultism.

The left hand has been associated with weakness and subversion for a very long time. The word Left comes from the Anglo-Saxon lyfy which literally means weak.1 The left hand in some cultures, had always been considered to be the weaker hand, and the right hand was known as stronger one.

The Latin word, sinister2 was related to the use of the word left, and also of evil. This relation with left and the reversal of the natural order of things illustrates the meaning behind what the left-hand path represents.

How the Ancients Saw it

The associations with left and right, have also been used in divination of events in nature. In ancient Greece, the philosopher Homer wrote about type of divination using flying birds- the bird that flies to the left represents the bad omen and the bird that flies to the right represents the good.3 Left and right were common associations with evil and good. So this association with the left, and unfortunate events, endings or evil have been used for a long time. When Christianity was integrated into ancient society the labels had remained.

How the Right Hand Path Perceives it

It has been said that the left hand takes in and receives energy and the right hand exudes energy. From the book, The Witches Bible (Amazon), the authors describe the Gardenarian Wicca method of creating a circle by using a right-facing motion. It is taught that the High Priestess opens the circle using a Sword by moving around the circle in deosil [clockwise], “from North to North”.4

The movement in reverse, or deosil, is an undoing of actions. When the Priestess closes the circle, it is done with a left hand motion, called Widdershins (counterclockwise). According to them the right-hand action is what creates, and the left-hand action is what destroys.

The right hand path warns against using dark magic claiming that the magic user will have their magic come back to them three-fold if magic is used for ill intent. Moral guidance like this is also one of the important ideas that separate the right and left hand path. Satanists and others who work with the left hand path are not bound by these moral laws. For a discussion on this idea see: Satanic Witchcraft and the Threefold Effect of Magic.

Left Hand Path Identity

The left, as weak, sinister, strange or odd has had a long history. Those who associate with the left-hand path embrace it as a path of personal empowerment. In comparison, consider how most right-hand path religions or practices often work for the benefit of a Left Hand Pathgod, while the self is denied for the benefit of others. Within the left hand path, the self is the center of consciousness. It can be said that the left hand path is self serving. In right hand path practices the self is often denied in exchange for association with a higher power. Left hand paths are generally for the good of the self, compared to right hand paths which are specifically, for the good of all.

But, the right hand path cultures have taken it upon themselves to label the world left and right, dark and light. Much like atheists who don’t really need a label but who are labeled none the less because Christians have labeled them “without god”, the left hand path has been labeled as negative by those who believe we are “without good”.

A similar adoption of a negative identity occurred in ancient times when non-Chrisitan peoples of the western world were labeled as ‘pagan’ by the ruling Christian class. Centuries later, Neo-Pagans adopted and used this label for their own needs. And just like atheists and Neo-pagans, we as Satanists have taken our label and made it a part of our permanent social identity.

1. Middle English, from Old English ‘lyft-, weak, useless “in ‘lyftdl’, paralysis” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/left [accessed 7/11/2017]
2. Middle English sinistre, “unfavorable”, from Old French, from Latin sinister, “on the left, unlucky”
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sinister [accessed 7/11/2017]
3. The Odyssey: The Verse Translation by Alexander Pope, Book 15,  pg. 23 – “The Eagle which flew to their right hand was a sign of good fortune.” [accessed 7/11/2017]
4. The Witches Bible, (at Amazon) Jan and Stewart Fararr pg.38

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