Wicca & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

David Wadsworth


(This article first appeared in Children of Sekhmet, May 1988. It was originally given by Dave as a talk at a Wiccan Workshop organized by Chris and Vivianne Crowley in 1987)

This talk aims to illustrate the all-pervading nature of Wicca. If a system of natural laws or beliefs is true, it can be applied to virtually anything. I intend to try and apply parts of Wiccan beliefs to my other passion, biking.

There is a peculiar sort of bonding between a real biker and his machine. The biker will put the well-being of his machine far above his own. I have seen men cry over a bent bike, or after an accident tell the driver off for hitting his bike rather than him. I have personally fought off two ambulance men so that I could hop to my bike to inspect the damage before being taken to hospital. My theory for this strange bond is that the motorcycle and rider form a sort of Gestalt being, a complete entity, either part of which is incomplete or useless without the other.

The motorcycle represents the male part of this entity. It provides all the force and power, but lacks control and direction. It is all potential, in Wiccan terms, the God force, waiting for the female aspect, the Goddess, in the form of a horrible grubby motorcycle rider. The rider takes the force and harnesses it, giving purpose, form and direction. Controlling the raw male potential, and together, in harmony, they will be capable of reaching heights impossible to either on their own.

The motorcycle can be seen as a way through which to tap a source of cosmic energy. The energy which we in the Wicca use for healing, spells, divination, as a gateway to alternative universes. Just as a witch wouldn't attempt to tap this awesome power without protection, neither would a biker. The biker will put on boots, gloves, helmet and leathers in a similar sort of way as a member of the Craft would surround themselves with a protective circle to preserve the power and keep out undesirable spirits. In the biker's case he is also aiming to keep in the heat, and protect him from the road, onto which demon car drivers possessed of evil spirits (gin, vodka, whiskey etc.) would lure him to his death!

This brings us neatly (?) to the subject of reincarnation. Most of you reading this will have some knowledge of the ideas of reincarnation; i.e. that we are born, live in the world, die, and are then reborn to develop further. Not many of you will realize that motorcycles go through a similar process. They leave the factory to roam about the face of the earth, then some parts wear out, and they descend into the dark underworld of the workshop. Here they are consoled and repaired by the creative force of the female, who is the biker, to emerge re-born in Spring, once more blooming with refreshed color of restored paint work, and the cycle starts again. Many British machines go through this every year. About Yule they are ready, and in the first days of Spring they roar about in the first flush of youth. Then at the peak of their power, at Lammas, they are cut down, usually due to some terminal mechanical problem. They dwell for the remainder of the year in Hades, the garage, thus mirroring the cycle of the God.

The spirituality of bikes is perceived by man in different forms, and each has its followers. Here are some of the major religions:

The Christian

This newcomer to the spiritual motorcycle rides a modern Japanese bike. He pays little more than lip service to his religion. He has few rituals, all he has to do is turn the key and start the starter engine. He tends to be into power and speed, tearing past older machines which he regards with contempt. He cares little for the inner workings of the machine, running to his priest/mechanic whenever he has a problem. Should his machine pass on, i.e., wear out, it will believed to be irreparable, i.e., too expensive, and gone to the great scrap heap in the sky. The makers of this are the great salesmen and evangelists of the bike, not to mention the profit makers.

THE MAGICIAN

He will typically be an older bearded gentleman, who rides an immaculate old British motorcycle. They are into status, and will pootle along at 40 mph all day, imagining themselves the envy of all who see them. They are into ritual and mystery. The performance required to summon some older bikes into life is awesome and dangerous. Yet these fellows will watch in silence as a machine spits at a new initiate and breaks his shin. They will endlessly pontificate on the correct shade of color for the petrol tank, or whether a part is the right year for the model; mostly that's all they do.

THE WITCH

The bike will most likely be filthy, not from lack of care, but from constant use in all sorts of conditions. The rider knows and understands the inner workings of his machine, its every click and whistle. He relies on no guru for his understanding, he is not afraid to try things out and see if it works. Not for him the search for power or acclaim. He is just out to explore the universe and glean its mysteries. He will get there in the end, there's plenty of time. He will rebuild bikes time after time, not sticking to rigid formulae, but with whatever comes to hand. he enjoys his bike and is in-tune with it.

As a biker-witch, I am now going to use two useful tools to explain my theory of Life, the Universe and Everything: i.e., the Kaballah and the four-stroke cycle.

Firstly the act of invocation and the four-stroke cycle. For those of you who are not mechanically minded, I'll try and keep this simple. Officially the four-stroke cycle is referred to as Induction, Compression, Power and Exhaust. I prefer the much more evocative Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow. There are a few parts that really matter: the crank shaft, the con rod, the piston and the inlet plus exhaust valves.

  1. Suck: Initially the piston is at the top and both valves are closed. As the crank shaft turns, the inlet valve opens, the con rod pulls the piston down which draws air and fuel in. At this point in an invocation, the invoker is opening his chakras and drawing the cosmic energy which surrounds us into his body.
  2. Squeeze: The crank shaft continues around, the inlet valve shuts, and the piston is pushed up, squeezing the gases together. This is when the invoker says the invocation and passes the power to the invokee.
  3. Bang: The fuel/air mixture ignites and pushes the piston down. The priest/ess takes on the aspect of God/dess being invoked.
  4. Blow: The exhaust valve opens and the piston pushes the charge into the exhaust pipe. The God/dess charges and shares his/her power with those assembled.

And now - motorcycles on the Tree of Life:

Kether - traditionally the godhead from which all energy flows. It is formless. This is the high tension spark which ignites the fuel and without which the bike is naught.

Chokmah - Formless, directionless energy, raw untamed power. In the engine this is the burning fuel mixture.

Binah - this takes the raw force and starts organizing and forming it. The piston, conrod and crankshaft takes the power of the expanding gases and converts it to rotary motion.

Chesed - Takes the potential energy of Binah, gives it order, and makes it more solid and usable. In the engine, the gearbox and final drive take the power from the crank shaft and make it usable to the whole machine.

Geburah - An essential breaking down. Where there is life, there must be death. In an engine when you have got two lumps of metal thrashing about in violent motion, they must wear each other away.

Tiphareth - This is the image of the godhead, the wayshower, Lucifer, Prince of Light. In the bike this is represented by the electrical system and the ignition system, and the lights, which on British machines are provided by Joe Lucas, Prince of Darkness!

Netzach - This is the spirit of nature, intuition and sexuality. This is more concerned with what bikers do. They are in tune with nature and tend to get drawn to ancient sites, e.g. Stonehenge, Avebury and Wayland Smithy, or just standing around in a muddy field communing with nature and the local brewery. This is also the source of the sexual bond between man and machine.

Hod - Communication, intellect and travel. It is also where your will produces power. The traveling aspect of motorcycles is fairly obvious, and hordes of dispatch riders fulfill the communication role. This is where we get the knowledge of the workings of the bike. It definitely takes Hodic willpower on a cold, wet morning, along with highly verbal expletives, leaping up and down on the kickstart to get the bugger moving.

Yesod - This is the lunar aspect of biking, linked to Tiphareth on the Middle Pillar (refer Joe Lucas, Prince of Darkness). Many bikers will, by the light of the Full Moon, switch their lights off and ride by moonlight in their lunatic hunt for the local hostelry. In the event of a biker meeting his death through this ridiculous activity, look into the sky. For there you will espy, on his silver machine, the spirit of the biker riding across the astral heavens. Scientists tend to think these are meteors. There is also the illusion of security one gets from riding around with one's head in a goldfish bowl, colloquially known as a blood bucket.

Malkuth - The concrete world, reality. On a bike you are cold, wet, tired, frequently uncomfortable, and very vulnerable, and no-one in their right mind would do it if it wasn't for something else...

Despite Malkuth, biking opens up other realms, other worlds (Birmingham, London, Glasgow, etc.) and puts you in tune with the inner and outer universes.

Quote of the moment:
It's not that they die, but that they die like sheep.

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