Magic Works

I’m not a “woo-woo” Pagan. When someone tells me they can chat with their cat on the astral plane, I may be nodding politely while actually thinking they need a mental health check up. People who resort to magic for every little thing annoy me, and I secretly think that sometimes magic is just an excuse to shop. Metaphysical stores smell good and are full of pretties. I get that.

I have no interest in books of spells, in talking about candle magic or joining any of those “Spell-A-Day” e-mail lists. I’m a grump and no-fun. I acknowledge and embrace this. It might be thought from this blog that I don’t even believe in or practice magic. Yet I do.

Magic works, and if you have any sense in your head, that should scare the faery dust right out of you.

I was part of a ritual last night that involved magic that literally blew me away. It’s already achieving it’s aim and for that I’m very grateful.

Here are some things about magic that I believe are true from my experiences:

  • Working with energy regularly is important. Working magic is not. You work out at the gym to get strong, but that doesn’t mean you get in ninja fights every day.
  • The Gods have little to do with magic. They get annoyed when you invoke them in a spell. You wouldn’t ask Queen Elizabeth to scrub your toilet, so why would you call on a God for something as petty as a money spell?
  • Magic is a human thing. It’s what humans do. It doesn’t involve the Gods, the fey, your cat or guardian angels. Therefore, magic works best when it’s based on human’s working with natural energy.
  • A successful working does not equate a successful outcome. I once performed a very successful spell but failed to capitalize on it’s manifestation. Before magic, chop wood/carry water. After magic, chop wood/carry water.
  • Energy matters. Where the energy comes from matters. Sometimes a group of strangers can produce a powerful amount of energy. Sometimes energy from different people doesn’t mesh well. I’ve been completely blown away and astounded by the energy produced by a small handful of Witches working in concert.
  • Traditional magical teachings have a lot of value. I was a solitary eclectic for almost a decade and experimented a lot. Traditional forms worked best for me then, traditional Craft training is teaching far more than I expected now.
  • Focusing on spiritual growth, values, community and character builds magical muscles you didn’t know you had. Think “wax on/wax off” from The Karate Kid. Working spells is a slow way to become an adept. Focusing on the spiritual, on your Will, on The Great Work, or whatever your tradition calls the ongoing spiritual transformation you are involved in, is the best way to become a better magician. You are the ultimate magical instrument, so being the best you can be is magically important.

Magic is a controversial subject in some Pagan communities, and the only subject in others. I subscribe to the belief that the Gods help those who help themselves. Magic is a tool humans have available to them. It should be used, and used appropriately. It should be respected because it works. When it’s not your primary goal or focus in Witchcraft, it’s quite an awe-inspiring experience. It is but one part of the whole of existence, and like anything else, shines best in it’s proper perspective.

I’ve raised cones of power before. It had always been in the form of a willing sacrifice: I raised the energy and gave it to others to use and direct. Last night, I had a cone of power “dropped” on me. It’s not an experience I would go through again without a profound need, because magic works. When you think on that short phrase, those two small words in conjunction, it gives you cause to pause. Think about it. Magic works.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Peter Freeman

    I really enjoyed this post. Magic unfolds to us by living our lives a certain way and you expound that plainly here. I’ve also written about that subject on my blog if you would like to look.  http://themagicneverends.blogspot.com/Can I caution

  • Peter Freeman

    I really enjoyed this post. Magic unfolds to us by living our lives a certain way and you expound that plainly here. I’ve also written about that subject on my blog if you would like to look.  http://themagicneverends.blogspot.com/Can I caution

  • Liza

    I liked what you had to say. However I do not think you have the right to say for others how magic works. How magic works for you is fine. We are individuals with different abilities. Lastly as someone who works with the Goddess, the fae and nature, scaring anyone or the faery dust out of anyone really is not the path to true magic or personal power. (besides you don’t want to piss off the faeries;) That is just my thought on it as per what the Goddess is whispering in my ear right now. In my own belief magic and the contribution of it is meant to heal, not hurt or scare, not manipulate or cajole:D I think the thoughts of scaring people is just feeding into the negativity and fear of what witches are, what magic is.  How does this get our fellow pagans and pagan community healing? How does this thinking benefit pagan children who simply want to be loved and accepted?
    I am not a spell a day chick either and quiet frankly magic is a way, not a right in my mind. You earn it by how you live in accordance with nature. That in my mind is what the “Powers That BE” are saying in my ear. Right now. I surrender to this wholeheartedly:D
    Lastly I absolutely do have a familiar and yes it is a cat and absolutely we communicate with each other. But Its not like in the movies. Its much more simple and beautiful than that. I believe he speaks English and he is sensitive to my emotions and well being! lol I think it’s called love.
    Have a great weekend. I enjoyed your post and liked a lot of some of the things you said! hehehe
    Liza

    • Peter Freeman

      Hi Liza; I’m puzzled by your remarks they don’t seem to be directed at my blog, but thank you for taking the time to read anyway. Blessings…….Peter

    • http://www.teobishop.com Teo Bishop

      I don’t presume to speak for Star (or for anyone, for that matter), but I read something differently into the statement, “that should scare the faery dust right out of you.” I think she’s making a very valuable point here: fear, or perhaps more accurately, a trembling awe, is an acceptable and understandable, perhaps even appropriate response to a mystical, transformative, magic-infused experience. 

      I don’t think she’s being *prescriptive* (i.e., she isn’t prescribing that we use fear as a tactic or a tool), but rather *descriptive* (i.e., she’s describing that fear is a natural response to the presence of something so great, so powerful, so infused with mystery).

      This is how it reads to me.

      • http://lifencompass.com Scott K Smith

        nor I, who took the pointed comment of “trembling awe” out of that, think that fear is any more absolute. There are many paths. Many. 

        • http://www.teobishop.com Teo Bishop

          There are many paths, indeed.

          Could you clarify what you mean? How exactly is you take “trembling awe”? Did that term resonate with you, or did it put you off?

          • http://lifencompass.com Scott K Smith

            trembling with awe sounds like “fear of God.” it just didn’t go down right.

          • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

            “Trembling with awe” is what “fear of God” used to mean.  Unfortunately, that very honest human response to the numinous got twisted into something along the lines of “submission to what a hierarchy tells you”.

            To be very blunt, I don’t believe anyone who claims to have experienced a theophany if I don’t see some awe.  Awe isn’t exactly fear, but it’s never far from it.

          • http://lifencompass.com Scott K Smith

            Exactly but I don’t see it used much in discussion in other ways, that said, having had a ‘moment’ or two of my own with experience I never felt fear. I have nothing to fear… not even when she made the world stop and spoke directly in my ear and then time moved forward again. Not when my Great Aunt died and while the priest performed the Rosary and a glowing shrouded figure appeared to several of us was I afraid.

            I felt loved, supported, connected. That was awe but not fear.

            It was simply the old use of the word that didn’t feel right.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      Where did I say I was describing an objective process true for all people? I said this was what I learned from my experience. Your mileage may vary, naturally.

      Faery dust is a euphemism for glitter, and I’m not fond of glitter.

      I never said magic was to be used for fear or manipulation. That said, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t approach magic with caution, just like we use caution with driving a car.

      I don’t understand how loving Pagan children fits into this, but I do think it’s time for Pagans to stop expecting every Pagan author to use disclaimers, or to speak for all of Pagandom. It’s ok to write from your point of view about your personal experience without putting a warning label on it.

    • http://lifencompass.com Scott K Smith

      I think that this is well intended, it just needed some thought (editing). 

  • Liza

    I liked what you had to say. However I do not think you have the right to say for others how magic works. How magic works for you is fine. We are individuals with different abilities. Lastly as someone who works with the Goddess, the fae and nature, scaring anyone or the faery dust out of anyone really is not the path to true magic or personal power. (besides you don’t want to piss off the faeries;) That is just my thought on it as per what the Goddess is whispering in my ear right now. In my own belief magic and the contribution of it is meant to heal, not hurt or scare, not manipulate or cajole:D I think the thoughts of scaring people is just feeding into the negativity and fear of what witches are, what magic is.  How does this get our fellow pagans and pagan community healing? How does this thinking benefit pagan children who simply want to be loved and accepted?
    I am not a spell a day chick either and quiet frankly magic is a way, not a right in my mind. You earn it by how you live in accordance with nature. That in my mind is what the “Powers That BE” are saying in my ear. Right now. I surrender to this wholeheartedly:D
    Lastly I absolutely do have a familiar and yes it is a cat and absolutely we communicate with each other. But Its not like in the movies. Its much more simple and beautiful than that. I believe he speaks English and he is sensitive to my emotions and well being! lol I think it’s called love.
    Have a great weekend. I enjoyed your post and liked a lot of some of the things you said! hehehe
    Liza

    • Peter Freeman

      Hi Liza; I’m puzzled by your remarks they don’t seem to be directed at my blog, but thank you for taking the time to read anyway. Blessings…….Peter

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      I don’t presume to speak for Star (or for anyone, for that matter), but I read something differently into the statement, “that should scare the faery dust right out of you.” I think she’s making a very valuable point here: fear, or perhaps more accurately, a trembling awe, is an acceptable and understandable, perhaps even appropriate response to a mystical, transformative, magic-infused experience. 

      I don’t think she’s being *prescriptive* (i.e., she isn’t prescribing that we use fear as a tactic or a tool), but rather *descriptive* (i.e., she’s describing that fear is a natural response to the presence of something so great, so powerful, so infused with mystery).

      This is how it reads to me.

      • http://lifencompass.com Scott @ Lifencompass

        nor I, who took the pointed comment of “trembling awe” out of that, think that fear is any more absolute. There are many paths. Many. 

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

          There are many paths, indeed.

          Could you clarify what you mean? How exactly is you take “trembling awe”? Did that term resonate with you, or did it put you off?

          • http://lifencompass.com Scott @ Lifencompass

            trembling with awe sounds like “fear of God.” it just didn’t go down right.

          • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

            “Trembling with awe” is what “fear of God” used to mean.  Unfortunately, that very honest human response to the numinous got twisted into something along the lines of “submission to what a hierarchy tells you”.

            To be very blunt, I don’t believe anyone who claims to have experienced a theophany if I don’t see some awe.  Awe isn’t exactly fear, but it’s never far from it.

          • http://lifencompass.com Scott @ Lifencompass

            Exactly but I don’t see it used much in discussion in other ways, that said, having had a ‘moment’ or two of my own with experience I never felt fear. I have nothing to fear… not even when she made the world stop and spoke directly in my ear and then time moved forward again. Not when my Great Aunt died and while the priest performed the Rosary and a glowing shrouded figure appeared to several of us was I afraid.

            I felt loved, supported, connected. That was awe but not fear.

            It was simply the old use of the word that didn’t feel right.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Where did I say I was describing an objective process true for all people? I said this was what I learned from my experience. Your mileage may vary, naturally.

      Faery dust is a euphemism for glitter, and I’m not fond of glitter.

      I never said magic was to be used for fear or manipulation. That said, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t approach magic with caution, just like we use caution with driving a car.

      I don’t understand how loving Pagan children fits into this, but I do think it’s time for Pagans to stop expecting every Pagan author to use disclaimers, or to speak for all of Pagandom. It’s ok to write from your point of view about your personal experience without putting a warning label on it.

    • http://lifencompass.com Scott @ Lifencompass

      I think that this is well intended, it just needed some thought (editing). 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1127101530 Alan J Sheridan

    See, I don’t talk to my cats on the astral, I talk to them right here on earth.  Of course, they don’t answer me in English, they’re cats, that’s beneath them.  One of them does send telepathic images once in a while, to tell me to fill up the water/food bowl or clean the catbox though.  But I don’t think that’s woo-woo, I think it’s just darned convenient.

    Your analogy about comparing bugging the gods for magic help to asking the Queen to clean the toilet was priceless, I was absolutely busting up laughing because I feel the same way, I’d just never put it so perfectly before.  Although invoking the Gods, Elements, etc. for ritual is part of how I was trained, mostly I’m asking them to guide me so that I don’t screw anything up with the spell I’m casting, I don’t ask them to do it for me.

    There are times for out-and-out prayer, of course… “Goddess, shield me from the homophobes chasing me” was a frequent prayer as I was going home from the bar 20 years ago, and thankfully they never caught me.  Praying to the Dark Mother to grant a loved one a swift and merciful release from a deadly illness is appropriate too, I wouldn’t dare cast a spell about it in a situation where I was *that* distraught.  But I don’t pray for parking spaces, that’s just a silly waste of time and energy.  I park far away on purpose and walk because I like the exercise.

    I totally agree that magic works, and that energy is all around us all the time.  I think it’s possible to over-use magic, just like it’s possible to overdo exercise and hurt yourself.  Using it wisely should make it possible to make life better, in my opinion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1127101530 Alan J Sheridan

    See, I don’t talk to my cats on the astral, I talk to them right here on earth.  Of course, they don’t answer me in English, they’re cats, that’s beneath them.  One of them does send telepathic images once in a while, to tell me to fill up the water/food bowl or clean the catbox though.  But I don’t think that’s woo-woo, I think it’s just darned convenient.

    Your analogy about comparing bugging the gods for magic help to asking the Queen to clean the toilet was priceless, I was absolutely busting up laughing because I feel the same way, I’d just never put it so perfectly before.  Although invoking the Gods, Elements, etc. for ritual is part of how I was trained, mostly I’m asking them to guide me so that I don’t screw anything up with the spell I’m casting, I don’t ask them to do it for me.

    There are times for out-and-out prayer, of course… “Goddess, shield me from the homophobes chasing me” was a frequent prayer as I was going home from the bar 20 years ago, and thankfully they never caught me.  Praying to the Dark Mother to grant a loved one a swift and merciful release from a deadly illness is appropriate too, I wouldn’t dare cast a spell about it in a situation where I was *that* distraught.  But I don’t pray for parking spaces, that’s just a silly waste of time and energy.  I park far away on purpose and walk because I like the exercise.

    I totally agree that magic works, and that energy is all around us all the time.  I think it’s possible to over-use magic, just like it’s possible to overdo exercise and hurt yourself.  Using it wisely should make it possible to make life better, in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a bit confused.You say that you are grateful for the magic of that ritual working. But you also say that a cone of power was dropped on you. Was that an accident? Or something that you anticipated? Are you saying that magic feels different when it changes you?

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      I guess I was describing how it felt. I put in a request for energy and so the energy raised was directed at me. It was intense. Felt like a house dropped on me!

  • Pitch313

    I’m a bit confused.You say that you are grateful for the magic of that ritual working. But you also say that a cone of power was dropped on you. Was that an accident? Or something that you anticipated? Are you saying that magic feels different when it changes you?

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I guess I was describing how it felt. I put in a request for energy and so the energy raised was directed at me. It was intense. Felt like a house dropped on me!

  • http://twitter.com/chorisschema Corc Hamr

    I would say that it depends on the type of magic and its application as to whether the Gods, fey, and other spirits are or should be involved. I don’t see many Wiccans who use magic responsibly calling on the God and Goddess for every spell. Energy work is useful for day-to-day practice, but is also effective as directed magic, which one does not need divine aid for.

    On the other hand, many vitkar see the Runes as wights, ones that are created and powered, carved from the greater Runewights (think totems for the Rune symbols, and you have some sort of approximation). Rune magicians from Edred Thorsson to Raven Kaldera (two opposite sides of thought for Norse magics) see and use the Runes this way. Also in consideration is the spirit of the medium that is used, the branch or stone or what-not. Finally, since the runes were won by Odin, it would be rude not to send him props for the use of them on some sort of regular basis (I do this as little as possible, considering Odin and I don’t work well together, but it is still a regular basis).

    Seidhr and similar magics are often used to interact with the Gods and spirits. To not involve them in the workings would likewise be less than wise; this type of magic is very closely tied to the spirits as well as one’s own perceptions and ability to shift into an altered state. Those using this magic are often called “spirit workers”, among other things, because they work very regularly with the Gods and other spirits. I wouldn’t classify them in the same way as what you call “woo woo” pagans, however.

    Finally, in the Norse tradition, at least, the Gods and other spirits (especially dwarves and Jotuns) use magic QUITE regularly. The same could be said of the Tuatha De Danaan; in fact, magic was as much of the Gods as of humans, if not more so. So, accepting that magic does not necessarily need the Gods or spirits to help, depending on its type, I still wonder, how do you come to the conclusion that magic is of human experience, when it is the Gods and spirits who used it before us and continue to use it still? As I said, it must be the difference of the magic and its application and methods, for this has certainly not been my experience with the forms of magic I use.

    That said, I agree with most of your other observations. The “Spell-a-day” crowd can overdo it… As many myths and later writings by Ceremonialists and runesters have said, again and again and again, “Magic is dangerous, mmkay?” Every time I teach a rune class, one of my first lessons is called, “Your friend, the Power Sander” (credit to John Ossian for that one).

    Enjoyed reading this one! Thanks!
    -C

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      I wouldn’t say it’s dangerous, or at least anymore dangerous than driving a car. I know Pagans I’d circle with but never let drive me anywhere. I like Lon Milo DuQuette’s advice of not being afraid, but then, if you’re taking Baba Lon’s advice you’re likely not taking magical work lightly…

      I was speaking of practical magic, not theurgy. I realize there’s no hard barrier between the two, but they aren’t the same either.

      • http://twitter.com/chorisschema Corc Hamr

        Ah. Cool. Though I wouldn’t consider seidh in either category, honestly. Thanks for clearing that up.

        Well, I think part of the problem with a lot of the drivers in this country is that they don’t take driving for the dangerous activity it truly is (I am a School Bus Driver, so I guess that biases my opinion). I feel it’s the same way with a lot of magic. People try writing in love spells and end up giving people heart conditions (ok, so that’s from Egil’s Saga, but it also happens today). It’s a skill that requires practice and common sense. I think we agree on this. *grin*

  • http://twitter.com/chorisschema Corc Hamr

    I would say that it depends on the type of magic and its application as to whether the Gods, fey, and other spirits are or should be involved. I don’t see many Wiccans who use magic responsibly calling on the God and Goddess for every spell. Energy work is useful for day-to-day practice, but is also effective as directed magic, which one does not need divine aid for.

    On the other hand, many vitkar see the Runes as wights, ones that are created and powered, carved from the greater Runewights (think totems for the Rune symbols, and you have some sort of approximation). Rune magicians from Edred Thorsson to Raven Kaldera (two opposite sides of thought for Norse magics) see and use the Runes this way. Also in consideration is the spirit of the medium that is used, the branch or stone or what-not. Finally, since the runes were won by Odin, it would be rude not to send him props for the use of them on some sort of regular basis (I do this as little as possible, considering Odin and I don’t work well together, but it is still a regular basis).

    Seidhr and similar magics are often used to interact with the Gods and spirits. To not involve them in the workings would likewise be less than wise; this type of magic is very closely tied to the spirits as well as one’s own perceptions and ability to shift into an altered state. Those using this magic are often called “spirit workers”, among other things, because they work very regularly with the Gods and other spirits. I wouldn’t classify them in the same way as what you call “woo woo” pagans, however.

    Finally, in the Norse tradition, at least, the Gods and other spirits (especially dwarves and Jotuns) use magic QUITE regularly. The same could be said of the Tuatha De Danaan; in fact, magic was as much of the Gods as of humans, if not more so. So, accepting that magic does not necessarily need the Gods or spirits to help, depending on its type, I still wonder, how do you come to the conclusion that magic is of human experience, when it is the Gods and spirits who used it before us and continue to use it still? As I said, it must be the difference of the magic and its application and methods, for this has certainly not been my experience with the forms of magic I use.

    That said, I agree with most of your other observations. The “Spell-a-day” crowd can overdo it… As many myths and later writings by Ceremonialists and runesters have said, again and again and again, “Magic is dangerous, mmkay?” Every time I teach a rune class, one of my first lessons is called, “Your friend, the Power Sander” (credit to John Ossian for that one).

    Enjoyed reading this one! Thanks!
    -C

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I wouldn’t say it’s dangerous, or at least anymore dangerous than driving a car. I know Pagans I’d circle with but never let drive me anywhere. I like Lon Milo DuQuette’s advice of not being afraid, but then, if you’re taking Baba Lon’s advice you’re likely not taking magical work lightly…

      I was speaking of practical magic, not theurgy. I realize there’s no hard barrier between the two, but they aren’t the same either.

      • http://twitter.com/chorisschema Corc Hamr

        Ah. Cool. Though I wouldn’t consider seidh in either category, honestly. Thanks for clearing that up.

        Well, I think part of the problem with a lot of the drivers in this country is that they don’t take driving for the dangerous activity it truly is (I am a School Bus Driver, so I guess that biases my opinion). I feel it’s the same way with a lot of magic. People try writing in love spells and end up giving people heart conditions (ok, so that’s from Egil’s Saga, but it also happens today). It’s a skill that requires practice and common sense. I think we agree on this. *grin*

  • http://profiles.google.com/cosettefromjupiter Cosette Paneque

    Star Foster wrote: “The Gods have little to do with magic. They get annoyed when you invoke them in a spell. You wouldn’t ask Queen Elizabeth to scrub your toilet, so why would you call on a God for something as petty as a money spell?”

    Years ago, I read a post on a Pagan forum from a person seeking advice after some pipes busted and flooded his basement. More specifically, he was looking for a spell. I told him to call a plumber. Since then, that’s how I refer to these kinds of incidents, Call the Plumber.

    Nice post here, Star. I couldn’t agree more with the perspective on magic presented here. I also have to agree with your comment about adding disclaimers. Why isn’t it obvious that we are only speaking for ourselves?

  • http://profiles.google.com/cosettefromjupiter Cosette Paneque

    Star Foster wrote: “The Gods have little to do with magic. They get annoyed when you invoke them in a spell. You wouldn’t ask Queen Elizabeth to scrub your toilet, so why would you call on a God for something as petty as a money spell?”

    Years ago, I read a post on a Pagan forum from a person seeking advice after some pipes busted and flooded his basement. More specifically, he was looking for a spell. I told him to call a plumber. Since then, that’s how I refer to these kinds of incidents, Call the Plumber.

    Nice post here, Star. I couldn’t agree more with the perspective on magic presented here. I also have to agree with your comment about adding disclaimers. Why isn’t it obvious that we are only speaking for ourselves?

  • Punstressak

    I am a sole practitioner, and I call myself a proud member of the fluffy bunny practitioners. I was nodding my head throughout this post. If _not_ following this is what those against “fluffy bunny” practitioners are on about, then I agree with them.

  • Punstressak

    I am a sole practitioner, and I call myself a proud member of the fluffy bunny practitioners. I was nodding my head throughout this post. If _not_ following this is what those against “fluffy bunny” practitioners are on about, then I agree with them.

  • Zevenster

    This is an exceptionally good piece of text and it says it all. Thank you for phrasing it!!

  • Zevenster

    This is an exceptionally good piece of text and it says it all. Thank you for phrasing it!!

  • http://twitter.com/atheris415 Atheris

    Magic is found in the mundane things in life, if you have the eyes to see it. Music for instance. The word music means the rite or ritual of the muse. By making or listening to music, we are practicing the craft of the Muse. Music is quite powerful, it can quickly change our emotional state, give us energy when we are tired, help us to sleep when we can’t sleep, etc. There is more going on here than psychology. We just have to recognize it.

  • http://twitter.com/atheris415 Atheris

    Magic is found in the mundane things in life, if you have the eyes to see it. Music for instance. The word music means the rite or ritual of the muse. By making or listening to music, we are practicing the craft of the Muse. Music is quite powerful, it can quickly change our emotional state, give us energy when we are tired, help us to sleep when we can’t sleep, etc. There is more going on here than psychology. We just have to recognize it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

    Star, you did a fab job with this topic. I couldn’t agree with you any more than I already do.

    I stopped practicing magic years ago because I felt that it was taking away the focus of my worship. Too many times I’ve seen it used as a crutch when the person can walk just fine on their own. “The Gods help those who help themselves” is a personal motto of mine.

  • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

    Star, you did a fab job with this topic. I couldn’t agree with you any more than I already do.

    I stopped practicing magic years ago because I felt that it was taking away the focus of my worship. Too many times I’ve seen it used as a crutch when the person can walk just fine on their own. “The Gods help those who help themselves” is a personal motto of mine.

  • Thefirstdark

    I find your article spot-on, ma’am. In October, I will celebrate one full year since I was called by Goddess. I’ve been a solitary practitioner since the start of my path into egyptian & hellenic studies; I’ve not really had the desire to join or associate with any other groups, as most of the pagans I’ve met have a hard time not trying to sway me to their chosen paths. Your article struck close to home, my fear of encountering a group of nutjobs or sparkle-worshippers is what has mostly kept me solitary. While I respect everyone’s choices, and ask many questions so as to learn more about the most base-principles, sometimes I wonder if I’m making the right decisions being a solitary practitioner. Your article gave me renewed realization to continue following my instincts, as they haven’t led me astray thus far! Thank u for a fresh, “bare bones” article that was very informative!

  • Thefirstdark

    I find your article spot-on, ma’am. In October, I will celebrate one full year since I was called by Goddess. I’ve been a solitary practitioner since the start of my path into egyptian & hellenic studies; I’ve not really had the desire to join or associate with any other groups, as most of the pagans I’ve met have a hard time not trying to sway me to their chosen paths. Your article struck close to home, my fear of encountering a group of nutjobs or sparkle-worshippers is what has mostly kept me solitary. While I respect everyone’s choices, and ask many questions so as to learn more about the most base-principles, sometimes I wonder if I’m making the right decisions being a solitary practitioner. Your article gave me renewed realization to continue following my instincts, as they haven’t led me astray thus far! Thank u for a fresh, “bare bones” article that was very informative!

  • Monty Stone

    I have a question if anyone doesn’t mind helping, I have been working a prosperity spell to help with my finances perhaps 5 times now and I directly ask the god and goddess for thier help and guidance! As far as I can tell, Nothing has come of it! I’m new to the path and do feel stronger and more confident after attempt but as of yet nothing has changed any advice? Thank you and Blessings.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

      Bear in mind that magick is just ONE way to direct force toward a goal. It is not, as anyone here will attest, the easiest, nor even the most appropriate tool for any given goal. In order for it to work to its full potential, that complete focus of will must be carried through to all other levels of your mundane life. Even the most magick-oriented of us still spend 99%+ of our time in the mundane world. If you’re doing things there which are self-defeating financially, no spellwork is going to turn that around.

       The other thing you must remember is that even successful spells don’t always come to an obvious conclusion. They manifest in their own way and time, and very often present as an opportunity rather than a “result.”  Of course we’d all like to do a money spell and then just have it bring the winning lottery ticket to us the next day. Far more likely, it will be something subtle: the “chance” meeting with an old friend who happens to have the inside dirt on the job you need etc. The spell worked, but you still have to have the wherewithal to recognize it and capitalize on it properly.

       Finally I will offer one other metaphysical truth. The old Rolling Stone’s bit about “you can’t always get what you want…but you can get what you need” is the real deal. I’ve done a couple of money drawing spells and a cool hoodoo type talisman over the years. The ones that worked invariably were the ones which sought to create/draw “enough” rather than “lots.” The outcomes were usually a mixture of money at the right time and what I would call “intangibles.”  Part of that involved the gifts of wisdom and self-discipline to realize what was truly “enough.”  I came to realize that I could do without a lot of the crap I used to think was indispensable, and a dollar saved is as good as one earned.  It’s no mistake that most millionaires, the ones who get and stay wealthy by their own hand, live well below their means.

  • Monty Stone

    I have a question if anyone doesn’t mind helping, I have been working a prosperity spell to help with my finances perhaps 5 times now and I directly ask the god and goddess for thier help and guidance! As far as I can tell, Nothing has come of it! I’m new to the path and do feel stronger and more confident after attempt but as of yet nothing has changed any advice? Thank you and Blessings.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

      Bear in mind that magick is just ONE way to direct force toward a goal. It is not, as anyone here will attest, the easiest, nor even the most appropriate tool for any given goal. In order for it to work to its full potential, that complete focus of will must be carried through to all other levels of your mundane life. Even the most magick-oriented of us still spend 99%+ of our time in the mundane world. If you’re doing things there which are self-defeating financially, no spellwork is going to turn that around.

       The other thing you must remember is that even successful spells don’t always come to an obvious conclusion. They manifest in their own way and time, and very often present as an opportunity rather than a “result.”  Of course we’d all like to do a money spell and then just have it bring the winning lottery ticket to us the next day. Far more likely, it will be something subtle: the “chance” meeting with an old friend who happens to have the inside dirt on the job you need etc. The spell worked, but you still have to have the wherewithal to recognize it and capitalize on it properly.

       Finally I will offer one other metaphysical truth. The old Rolling Stone’s bit about “you can’t always get what you want…but you can get what you need” is the real deal. I’ve done a couple of money drawing spells and a cool hoodoo type talisman over the years. The ones that worked invariably were the ones which sought to create/draw “enough” rather than “lots.” The outcomes were usually a mixture of money at the right time and what I would call “intangibles.”  Part of that involved the gifts of wisdom and self-discipline to realize what was truly “enough.”  I came to realize that I could do without a lot of the crap I used to think was indispensable, and a dollar saved is as good as one earned.  It’s no mistake that most millionaires, the ones who get and stay wealthy by their own hand, live well below their means.

  • Jim

    What an excellent blog. My view exactly and it has taken me 40 years to get here!

    Thanks.

  • Jim

    What an excellent blog. My view exactly and it has taken me 40 years to get here!

    Thanks.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

    Bear in mind that magick is just ONE way to direct force toward a goal.
    It is not, as anyone here will attest, the easiest, nor even the most
    appropriate tool for any given goal. In order for it to work to its full
    potential, that complete focus of will must be carried through to all
    other levels of your mundane life. Even the most magick-oriented of us
    still spend 99%+ of our time in the mundane world. If you’re doing
    things there which are self-defeating financially, no spellwork is going
    to turn that around.

     The other thing you must remember is that even successful spells don’t
    always come to an obvious conclusion. They manifest in their own way and
    time, and very often present as an opportunity rather than a “result.” 
    Of course we’d all like to do a money spell and then just have it bring
    the winning lottery ticket to us the next day. Far more likely, it will
    be something subtle: the “chance” meeting with an old friend who
    happens to have the inside dirt on the job you need etc. The spell
    worked, but you still have to have the wherewithal to recognize it and
    capitalize on it properly.

     

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

      Finally I will offer one other metaphysical truth. The old Rolling
      Stone’s bit about “you can’t always get what you want…but you can get
      what you need” is the real deal. I’ve done a couple of money drawing
      spells and a cool hoodoo type talisman over the years. The ones that
      worked invariably were the ones which sought to create/draw “enough”
      rather than “lots.” The outcomes were usually a mixture of money at the
      right time and what I would call “intangibles.”  Part of that involved
      the gifts of wisdom and self-discipline to realize what was truly
      “enough.”  I came to realize that I could do without a lot of the things  I
      used to think was indispensable, and a dollar saved is as good as one
      earned.  It’s no mistake that most millionaires, the ones who get and
      stay wealthy by their own hand, live well below their means.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

    Bear in mind that magick is just ONE way to direct force toward a goal.
    It is not, as anyone here will attest, the easiest, nor even the most
    appropriate tool for any given goal. In order for it to work to its full
    potential, that complete focus of will must be carried through to all
    other levels of your mundane life. Even the most magick-oriented of us
    still spend 99%+ of our time in the mundane world. If you’re doing
    things there which are self-defeating financially, no spellwork is going
    to turn that around.

     The other thing you must remember is that even successful spells don’t
    always come to an obvious conclusion. They manifest in their own way and
    time, and very often present as an opportunity rather than a “result.” 
    Of course we’d all like to do a money spell and then just have it bring
    the winning lottery ticket to us the next day. Far more likely, it will
    be something subtle: the “chance” meeting with an old friend who
    happens to have the inside dirt on the job you need etc. The spell
    worked, but you still have to have the wherewithal to recognize it and
    capitalize on it properly.

     

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

      Finally I will offer one other metaphysical truth. The old Rolling
      Stone’s bit about “you can’t always get what you want…but you can get
      what you need” is the real deal. I’ve done a couple of money drawing
      spells and a cool hoodoo type talisman over the years. The ones that
      worked invariably were the ones which sought to create/draw “enough”
      rather than “lots.” The outcomes were usually a mixture of money at the
      right time and what I would call “intangibles.”  Part of that involved
      the gifts of wisdom and self-discipline to realize what was truly
      “enough.”  I came to realize that I could do without a lot of the things  I
      used to think was indispensable, and a dollar saved is as good as one
      earned.  It’s no mistake that most millionaires, the ones who get and
      stay wealthy by their own hand, live well below their means.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

      Finally I will offer one other metaphysical truth. The old Rolling
      Stone’s bit about “you can’t always get what you want…but you can get
      what you need” is the real deal. I’ve done a couple of money drawing
      spells and a cool hoodoo type talisman over the years. The ones that
      worked invariably were the ones which sought to create/draw “enough”
      rather than “lots.” The outcomes were usually a mixture of money at the
      right time and what I would call “intangibles.”  Part of that involved
      the gifts of wisdom and self-discipline to realize what was truly
      “enough.”  I came to realize that I could do without a lot of the crap I
      used to think was indispensable, and a dollar saved is as good as one
      earned.  It’s no mistake that most millionaires, the ones who get and
      stay wealthy by their own hand, live well below their means.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

    Bear in mind that magick is just ONE way to direct force toward a goal.
    It is not, as anyone here will attest, the easiest, nor even the most
    appropriate tool for any given goal. In order for it to work to its full
    potential, that complete focus of will must be carried through to all
    other levels of your mundane life. Even the most magick-oriented of us
    still spend 99%+ of our time in the mundane world. If you’re doing
    things there which are self-defeating financially, no spellwork is going
    to turn that around.

     The other thing you must remember is that even successful spells don’t
    always come to an obvious conclusion. They manifest in their own way and
    time, and very often present as an opportunity rather than a “result.” 
    Of course we’d all like to do a money spell and then just have it bring
    the winning lottery ticket to us the next day. Far more likely, it will
    be something subtle: the “chance” meeting with an old friend who
    happens to have the inside dirt on the job you need etc. The spell
    worked, but you still have to have the wherewithal to recognize it and
    capitalize on it properly.

     Finally I will offer one other metaphysical truth. The old bit about “you can’t always get what you want…but you can get
    what you need” is the real deal. I’ve done a couple of money drawing
    spells and a cool hoodoo type talisman over the years. The ones that
    worked invariably were the ones which sought to create/draw “enough”
    rather than “lots.” The outcomes were usually a mixture of money at the
    right time and what I would call “intangibles.”  Part of that involved
    the gifts of wisdom and self-discipline to realize what was truly
    “enough.”  I came to realize that I could do without a lot of the crap I
    used to think was indispensable, and a dollar saved is as good as one
    earned.  It’s no mistake that most millionaires, the ones who get and
    stay wealthy by their own hand, live well below their means.

  • Illiezeulette

    Ah this post is great.  You said many things I agree with, and your strong voice in this matter is much appreciated and insightful. 

    Theurgy is definitely magic but it’s also definitely magic that works with gods and angels.  Thaumaturgy, or even “practical spellwork” is what I think you’re talking about here, but it’s also not magic that I engage in regularly.  I wouldn’t perform spellwork unless I was using every mundane resource I reasonably could to achieve my goal.  It’s a sort of last resort for me.  However, I perform theurgy almost daily because the regular alignment of my soul with higher goals and entities is extremely important to me and my path.

    Also, as a Roman-ish type Pagan, some of my gods are household gods and not so high-and-mighty as, say, Iuppiter, so to engage them in thaumaturgy wouldn’t be so egregiously wrong “like asking Queen Elizabeth to scrub my toilet.”  If I want to petition the Penates in some basic (but important) housekeeping magic regarding my home, hearth, or pantry, I think that’s okay, but I wouldn’t petition Vesta for a simple spell.

    I also think that working with higher gods to act as advisors in a project that deals with the practical world (say, working with Iuppiter to manage issues regarding hospitality), is okay, as long as the relationship is long-term and focused on the cultivation of a higher fruit, such as a virtue.  Developing Virtue is intimately involved with everyday experiences, which can make the line of “do I invoke Iuppiter or do I not” pretty hazy. 

  • Illiezeulette

    Ah this post is great.  You said many things I agree with, and your strong voice in this matter is much appreciated and insightful. 

    Theurgy is definitely magic but it’s also definitely magic that works with gods and angels.  Thaumaturgy, or even “practical spellwork” is what I think you’re talking about here, but it’s also not magic that I engage in regularly.  I wouldn’t perform spellwork unless I was using every mundane resource I reasonably could to achieve my goal.  It’s a sort of last resort for me.  However, I perform theurgy almost daily because the regular alignment of my soul with higher goals and entities is extremely important to me and my path.

    Also, as a Roman-ish type Pagan, some of my gods are household gods and not so high-and-mighty as, say, Iuppiter, so to engage them in thaumaturgy wouldn’t be so egregiously wrong “like asking Queen Elizabeth to scrub my toilet.”  If I want to petition the Penates in some basic (but important) housekeeping magic regarding my home, hearth, or pantry, I think that’s okay, but I wouldn’t petition Vesta for a simple spell.

    I also think that working with higher gods to act as advisors in a project that deals with the practical world (say, working with Iuppiter to manage issues regarding hospitality), is okay, as long as the relationship is long-term and focused on the cultivation of a higher fruit, such as a virtue.  Developing Virtue is intimately involved with everyday experiences, which can make the line of “do I invoke Iuppiter or do I not” pretty hazy. 

  • http://lifencompass.com Scott K Smith

    It does work. Raises hand. Yes, and it doesn’t require all the dressings we give it, but the dressing makes the dinner so much better. I think psychology *proved* that… right? LOL

    but yes, no woo woo  needed. That’s like talking through water to people to tell them there is air up here. 

  • http://lifencompass.com Scott @ Lifencompass

    It does work. Raises hand. Yes, and it doesn’t require all the dressings we give it, but the dressing makes the dinner so much better. I think psychology *proved* that… right? LOL

    but yes, no woo woo  needed. That’s like talking through water to people to tell them there is air up here. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jameymarron Jim Marron

    YES 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jameymarron Jim Marron

    YES 

  • Monty Stone

    Incredibly insightful!

  • Monty Stone

    Incredibly insightful!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

    Looks like I’m going to be the sole non-magical pagan voice here.  Let me preface this by saying I am not a Recon or Heathen (who often seem to have issues about magic).  I am an eclectic, post-modern Neopagan. 
    However, I just do not understand the connection between Neopaganism and magic.  I mean, I understand how they are historically connected, but not how they are conceptually connected.  It seems to me that the instrumental theory of magic is problematic because it undermines what for me is one of the core values of Neopaganism: the non-instrumental or non-technological view of nature.  (I use “technological” here in Heidegger’s sense.) 
    As Robert Ellwood and Harry Partin explain in their review of Neopaganism in *Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America*:
    “The unifying theme among the diverse Neo-Pagan traditions is the ecology of one’s relation to nature and to the various parts of one’s self.  As Neo-Pagans understand it, the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that the human intellectual will is to have dominion over the world, and over the unruly lesser parts of the human psyche, as it, in turn, is to be subordinate to the One God and is will.  The Neo-Pagans hold that, on the contrary, we must cooperate with nature and its deep forces on a basis of reverence and exchange. Of the parts of man, the imagination should be first among equals, for [hu]man[kind]‘s true glory is not in what he commands, but in what he sees.  What wonders he sees of nature and of himself he leaves untouched, save to glorify and celebrate them.”
    The instrumental theory of magic seems to run counter to this value.  The magical control of nature seems to be in opposition to the more “religious” attitude of reverence of nature and the practice of cooperation with (rather than control over) nature which are central to the Neopagan ethos.  It seems to be a form of what Starhawk calls “power-over” rather than “power-with”.
    Star’s proposition that (Neo-)pagan deities have little to do with magic seems to support the conclusion that there is a disconnect between Neopagan reverence for the divine and the practice of magic.
    Carol Christ describes my feelings well in her book, *She Who Changes*:
    “I still find meaning in attuning myself to the rhythms of the moon and celebrating the seasons of the year.  But as my experience of the Goddess becomes rooted in the Greek land, I find my practice more and more inspired by nature itself […] Spell casting [… was] for me, yet another head-trip, a very American way of trying to control reality and achieve individual desire. I now find that my needs are better met by my remaining open to what life has to offer than by trying to mold reality to my will.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

      Excellent points! (I’m especially intrigued by Ellwood and Partin’s description of Neopaganism’s unifying theme – and wonder how many self-identifying Pagans would disagree with it using the familiar disclaimer that “not all Pagans are ‘earth-centered’” without examining the deeper implications in such a definition.)

      I, for one, do not see magic as a technology – but as an art. To some extent, that distinction itself is a bit of a false one and something modern culture is prone to – we tend to separate utilitarian objects from artistic objects, despite the evidence of plenty of artifacts from ancient times where deeply practical objects are also deeply aesthetic and artistic. But the distinction between art and technology is at least useful for the sake of speaking to my fellow contemporaries. ;) I can write a poem or create a painting as a devotional work, and yet through that very act of devotion I change the world around me and how others view it, even how I myself view it. Artistic, creative work is an exercise in engagement and relationship – coming into relationship with a (natural) world that puts up resistance and shapes the ways I am able to move and express myself. In the same way, I think magic can be a deeply devotional act – by doing that work, we change ourselves and we change the world around us. But that doesn’t mean its sole purpose is to control or manipulate the world. In art, we strive to create something or express something… but our relationship with the medium determines how well we’re able to express it and even to an extent how we conceive of the thing we want to express, and we are also unable to predict or control precisely what the ultimate results of our work will be and how it will changes us or others. I think the same is true of magic.

      So for that reason, I disagree that the gods have nothing to do with it. Magic is about engaging with the world and its beings (which includes gods) – and this can, of course, be done with a lack of awareness. (In the same way a lack of aesthetic awareness or consideration is how we tend to distinguish “art” from “technology” in contemporary society, though that is a dualism not found in many ancient cultures.) But the gods are always there. And because to a certain extent the means of change and the change itself are influenced by chance or patterns beyond our control, the gods play a role in our magical work as well. I tend to think of magic as just another way of expressing our relationship with nature and with the gods. You could think of it these in terms: in prayer and meditation, we tend to be more “passive,” in a state of listening and attention, while in magic and ritual (for rituals are themselves a kind of magic, especially those that consciously embody myths and re-create the cosmos in ritual contexts) we are more active, taking on a role of creativity and attending (as in serving and waiting upon).

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Beautifully articulated (as always) Alison!
        I have to concede that there will be some who don’t identify with Ellwood and Partin’s description — but that is it for me.
        I love your distinction between technology and art. That’s why I prefer the definition of magic as the “art” rather than the “science” of changing consciousness. Your description of magic/art as “an exercise in engagement and relationship – coming into relationship with a (natural) world” and as a “deeply devotional act” is wonderful and I relate to it. But seems to be very different from the kind of energy work, spellcraft, and the like, which is so common, which seems to be about projecting one’s will (wishes) onto a passive world which has been objectified by science, as well as by pseudo-scientific talk about magical energy as if it were a form of electricity.
        Your active/passive distinction is also interesting. It reminds me of Heidgger’s famous quote from his *Der Speigel* interview:
        “Philosophy [or magic] is not able to effect a transformation of the world. This is not only true of philosophy, but of all human thought and endeavor. Only a god [or a goddess] can save us. The sole possibility that is left for us is to prepare a readiness, through thought and poetic creation for the appearance of the god [or a goddess].”
        Pagan ritual, for me, is poetic creation that “prepares a readiness” for the appearance of deity. Contrast this with some ancient theurgy and medieval magic, which presumed to command gods, angels, and spirits. And contrast this with the practice of “using gods” which is the substance of so much of contemporary Pagan magic.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          I think what you’re reacting to is the perceptions and attitudes of fairly superficial–and usually newer–practitioners.  None of the deeply experienced pagan magical practitioners I’ve known treat magic as acting on an alienated object.  Rather, we experience magic as participation in interconnection.  But we talk about it less than we did when we were newer because we know that our words are inadequate.

          Please note, it is quite possible to be a deeply experienced pagan–even a deeply experienced pagan priest–without being a deeply experienced magical practitioner.  And vice versa, of course.  Developing depth in either takes years and a lot of work.  Developing depth in both takes even more time and work.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nicole-Youngman/100001029378646 Nicole Youngman

      John, are you the author of a similar essay over at American Neopaganism? I was thrilled to death to find that–I’m one of the apparently very few Pagans out there who just doesn’t believe in magic/k. It just doesn’t seem to have anything to do with being “earth-based,” revering Nature, etc. Magick as ritual, as inner work or meditation, even as prayer I can understand, but the idea of somehow mentally manipulating the world to get it to do something you want is just not something I can intellectually (or otherwise) accept has any basis in reality. I’m a Druid and a Green Witch to boot, but for me that’s about connecting with the land/sea/sky and their inhabitants (and maybe deities who for me personify different aspects of Nature), it’s not about moving energy around by thinking about it just right in order to get it to somehow help me achieve a goal.

      Everyone else’s mileage may, of course, vary widely. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Yes, that’s me trying to be provocative. [http://www.americanneopaganism.com/magic.htm]  I have discovered that there are a few of us out there.  Some can be found at the Naturalistic Paganism Yahoo group [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/naturalistic_paganism/] and at B.T. Newberg’s Humanistic Paganism blog [http://humanisticpaganism.wordpress.com/]
        Your comments really resonated with me.  I especially appreciate your use of the word “connecting” in this context.  I concur with Thorn Coyle that what Pagans have in common is (or should be) the experience of relatedness or
        connection (as opposed perhaps to the Western/Judeo-Christian experience of alienation).  [http://www.thorncoyle.com/2011/04/paganism-one-working-answer/]  When I described Pagan magic as technological, I was using the term in Heidegger’s sense of creating a world of the dichotomous subject and object and
        turns of the whole universe of beings into an undifferentiated
        “standing reserve”, available for any use to which humans choose to put
        it.  I wonder if Pagan practice of “energy work” is not an example of Heidegger’s standing reserve: as if there were this neutral “stuff” filling the air always already available to us for any use, and having no particular connection to our person or the place in which we are.  Contrast that with magic as a way of creating an I-Thou relationship (Buber) with our immediate environment — really listening rather than trying to project our will onto the environment.  I know there are Pagans, like Thorn and Alison (above) who are great examples of the practice of magic as connectedness.  But I wonder why so much of Pagan magic seems to be a practice of disconnectedness, an excuse not to go outside, not to relate to other people, and not to engage the world.  And I wonder, with Fred Lamond (*Fifty Years of Wicca*) if there are not certain Pan-Pagan ritual forms, like the casting of magic circles, which serve to actually cut us off from the world, rather than connecting us to it.

        • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

          What I find fascinating about this train of thought is I had a discussion with someone raised in an indigenous tradition and their views on magic are very much what you’re describing. I was discussing connectedness and reciprocity and it was totally alien to her.

          I think your ideas about magic, and the way modern Pagans use it, are based on a particular section of Paganism, and not representative of Paganism as a whole.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            Granted.  My view of Pagan magic is unfortunately skewed by the Pagan publishing industry and I am discovering more sophisticated concepts of magic on this and other blogs.
            Regarding your indigenous acquaintance, I think we Neo-Pagans tend to romanticize indigenous cultures (past and present) and presume they have a more harmonious relationship with the world than may be the case.  Kind of a “noble savage” myth going on.  I think the kind of conception of magic as connectedness may actually be a very post-modern notion.  That’s why I am more comfortable with the label “Neo*pagan.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          And I wonder, with Fred Lamond (*Fifty Years of Wicca*) if there are not
          certain Pan-Pagan ritual forms, like the casting of magic circles,
          which serve to actually cut us off from the world, rather than
          connecting us to it.

          I agree with Lamond’s statement, though I think it’s a bit more complex.  When doing ritual outside, I don’t like a circle cast as that does cut us off from the influence of the living beings surrounding us.  However, when working in my home, I do wish to cut myself off from the influence from the living beings in the other apartments in the building.  And I also think they deserve to be cut off from my influence if I’m working serious magic, as I have no right to subject them to that.  Further, a cast circle, as a consequence of cutting us off from outside influences, can encourage us to be more open to the influence of the beings that are in the circle with us–both human beings and non-corporeal beings.  I am more willing to make myself vulnerable in circle because I know that the only beings in the circle with me are those whom I have an intimate relationship with.  Obviously, this doesn’t apply to public rituals, and I think that cast circles are less often helpful in public settings.  (This is one of the reasons why I don’t think Wiccanate ritual should be the default for “pan-pagan” settings.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

    Looks like I’m going to be the sole non-magical pagan voice here.  Let me preface this by saying I am not a Recon or Heathen (who often seem to have issues about magic).  I am an eclectic, post-modern Neopagan. 
    However, I just do not understand the connection between Neopaganism and magic.  I mean, I understand how they are historically connected, but not how they are conceptually connected.  It seems to me that the instrumental theory of magic is problematic because it undermines what for me is one of the core values of Neopaganism: the non-instrumental or non-technological view of nature.  (I use “technological” here in Heidegger’s sense.) 
    As Robert Ellwood and Harry Partin explain in their review of Neopaganism in *Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America*:
    “The unifying theme among the diverse Neo-Pagan traditions is the ecology of one’s relation to nature and to the various parts of one’s self.  As Neo-Pagans understand it, the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that the human intellectual will is to have dominion over the world, and over the unruly lesser parts of the human psyche, as it, in turn, is to be subordinate to the One God and is will.  The Neo-Pagans hold that, on the contrary, we must cooperate with nature and its deep forces on a basis of reverence and exchange. Of the parts of man, the imagination should be first among equals, for [hu]man[kind]‘s true glory is not in what he commands, but in what he sees.  What wonders he sees of nature and of himself he leaves untouched, save to glorify and celebrate them.”
    The instrumental theory of magic seems to run counter to this value.  The magical control of nature seems to be in opposition to the more “religious” attitude of reverence of nature and the practice of cooperation with (rather than control over) nature which are central to the Neopagan ethos.  It seems to be a form of what Starhawk calls “power-over” rather than “power-with”.
    Star’s proposition that (Neo-)pagan deities have little to do with magic seems to support the conclusion that there is a disconnect between Neopagan reverence for the divine and the practice of magic.
    Carol Christ describes my feelings well in her book, *She Who Changes*:
    “I still find meaning in attuning myself to the rhythms of the moon and celebrating the seasons of the year.  But as my experience of the Goddess becomes rooted in the Greek land, I find my practice more and more inspired by nature itself […] Spell casting [… was] for me, yet another head-trip, a very American way of trying to control reality and achieve individual desire. I now find that my needs are better met by my remaining open to what life has to offer than by trying to mold reality to my will.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

      Excellent points! (I’m especially intrigued by Ellwood and Partin’s description of Neopaganism’s unifying theme – and wonder how many self-identifying Pagans would disagree with it using the familiar disclaimer that “not all Pagans are ‘earth-centered’” without examining the deeper implications in such a definition.)

      I, for one, do not see magic as a technology – but as an art. To some extent, that distinction itself is a bit of a false one and something modern culture is prone to – we tend to separate utilitarian objects from artistic objects, despite the evidence of plenty of artifacts from ancient times where deeply practical objects are also deeply aesthetic and artistic. But the distinction between art and technology is at least useful for the sake of speaking to my fellow contemporaries. ;) I can write a poem or create a painting as a devotional work, and yet through that very act of devotion I change the world around me and how others view it, even how I myself view it. Artistic, creative work is an exercise in engagement and relationship – coming into relationship with a (natural) world that puts up resistance and shapes the ways I am able to move and express myself. In the same way, I think magic can be a deeply devotional act – by doing that work, we change ourselves and we change the world around us. But that doesn’t mean its sole purpose is to control or manipulate the world. In art, we strive to create something or express something… but our relationship with the medium determines how well we’re able to express it and even to an extent how we conceive of the thing we want to express, and we are also unable to predict or control precisely what the ultimate results of our work will be and how it will changes us or others. I think the same is true of magic.

      So for that reason, I disagree that the gods have nothing to do with it. Magic is about engaging with the world and its beings (which includes gods) – and this can, of course, be done with a lack of awareness. (In the same way a lack of aesthetic awareness or consideration is how we tend to distinguish “art” from “technology” in contemporary society, though that is a dualism not found in many ancient cultures.) But the gods are always there. And because to a certain extent the means of change and the change itself are influenced by chance or patterns beyond our control, the gods play a role in our magical work as well. I tend to think of magic as just another way of expressing our relationship with nature and with the gods. You could think of it these in terms: in prayer and meditation, we tend to be more “passive,” in a state of listening and attention, while in magic and ritual (for rituals are themselves a kind of magic, especially those that consciously embody myths and re-create the cosmos in ritual contexts) we are more active, taking on a role of creativity and attending (as in serving and waiting upon).

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Beautifully articulated (as always) Alison!
        I have to concede that there will be some who don’t identify with Ellwood and Partin’s description — but that is it for me.
        I love your distinction between technology and art. That’s why I prefer the definition of magic as the “art” rather than the “science” of changing consciousness. Your description of magic/art as “an exercise in engagement and relationship – coming into relationship with a (natural) world” and as a “deeply devotional act” is wonderful and I relate to it. But seems to be very different from the kind of energy work, spellcraft, and the like, which is so common, which seems to be about projecting one’s will (wishes) onto a passive world which has been objectified by science, as well as by pseudo-scientific talk about magical energy as if it were a form of electricity.
        Your active/passive distinction is also interesting. It reminds me of Heidgger’s famous quote from his *Der Speigel* interview:
        “Philosophy [or magic] is not able to effect a transformation of the world. This is not only true of philosophy, but of all human thought and endeavor. Only a god [or a goddess] can save us. The sole possibility that is left for us is to prepare a readiness, through thought and poetic creation for the appearance of the god [or a goddess].”
        Pagan ritual, for me, is poetic creation that “prepares a readiness” for the appearance of deity. Contrast this with some ancient theurgy and medieval magic, which presumed to command gods, angels, and spirits. And contrast this with the practice of “using gods” which is the substance of so much of contemporary Pagan magic.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          I think what you’re reacting to is the perceptions and attitudes of fairly superficial–and usually newer–practitioners.  None of the deeply experienced pagan magical practitioners I’ve known treat magic as acting on an alienated object.  Rather, we experience magic as participation in interconnection.  But we talk about it less than we did when we were newer because we know that our words are inadequate.

          Please note, it is quite possible to be a deeply experienced pagan–even a deeply experienced pagan priest–without being a deeply experienced magical practitioner.  And vice versa, of course.  Developing depth in either takes years and a lot of work.  Developing depth in both takes even more time and work.

    • Nicole Youngman

      John, are you the author of a similar essay over at American Neopaganism? I was thrilled to death to find that–I’m one of the apparently very few Pagans out there who just doesn’t believe in magic/k. It just doesn’t seem to have anything to do with being “earth-based,” revering Nature, etc. Magick as ritual, as inner work or meditation, even as prayer I can understand, but the idea of somehow mentally manipulating the world to get it to do something you want is just not something I can intellectually (or otherwise) accept has any basis in reality. I’m a Druid and a Green Witch to boot, but for me that’s about connecting with the land/sea/sky and their inhabitants (and maybe deities who for me personify different aspects of Nature), it’s not about moving energy around by thinking about it just right in order to get it to somehow help me achieve a goal.

      Everyone else’s mileage may, of course, vary widely. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Yes, that’s me trying to be provocative. [http://www.americanneopaganism.com/magic.htm]  I have discovered that there are a few of us out there.  Some can be found at the Naturalistic Paganism Yahoo group [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/naturalistic_paganism/] and at B.T. Newberg’s Humanistic Paganism blog [http://humanisticpaganism.wordpress.com/]
        Your comments really resonated with me.  I especially appreciate your use of the word “connecting” in this context.  I concur with Thorn Coyle that what Pagans have in common is (or should be) the experience of relatedness or
        connection (as opposed perhaps to the Western/Judeo-Christian experience of alienation).  [http://www.thorncoyle.com/2011/04/paganism-one-working-answer/]  When I described Pagan magic as technological, I was using the term in Heidegger’s sense of creating a world of the dichotomous subject and object and
        turns of the whole universe of beings into an undifferentiated
        “standing reserve”, available for any use to which humans choose to put
        it.  I wonder if Pagan practice of “energy work” is not an example of Heidegger’s standing reserve: as if there were this neutral “stuff” filling the air always already available to us for any use, and having no particular connection to our person or the place in which we are.  Contrast that with magic as a way of creating an I-Thou relationship (Buber) with our immediate environment — really listening rather than trying to project our will onto the environment.  I know there are Pagans, like Thorn and Alison (above) who are great examples of the practice of magic as connectedness.  But I wonder why so much of Pagan magic seems to be a practice of disconnectedness, an excuse not to go outside, not to relate to other people, and not to engage the world.  And I wonder, with Fred Lamond (*Fifty Years of Wicca*) if there are not certain Pan-Pagan ritual forms, like the casting of magic circles, which serve to actually cut us off from the world, rather than connecting us to it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

          What I find fascinating about this train of thought is I had a discussion with someone raised in an indigenous tradition and their views on magic are very much what you’re describing. I was discussing connectedness and reciprocity and it was totally alien to her.

          I think your ideas about magic, and the way modern Pagans use it, are based on a particular section of Paganism, and not representative of Paganism as a whole.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            Granted.  My view of Pagan magic is unfortunately skewed by the Pagan publishing industry and I am discovering more sophisticated concepts of magic on this and other blogs.
            Regarding your indigenous acquaintance, I think we Neo-Pagans tend to romanticize indigenous cultures (past and present) and presume they have a more harmonious relationship with the world than may be the case.  Kind of a “noble savage” myth going on.  I think the kind of conception of magic as connectedness may actually be a very post-modern notion.  That’s why I am more comfortable with the label “Neo*pagan.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          And I wonder, with Fred Lamond (*Fifty Years of Wicca*) if there are not
          certain Pan-Pagan ritual forms, like the casting of magic circles,
          which serve to actually cut us off from the world, rather than
          connecting us to it.

          I agree with Lamond’s statement, though I think it’s a bit more complex.  When doing ritual outside, I don’t like a circle cast as that does cut us off from the influence of the living beings surrounding us.  However, when working in my home, I do wish to cut myself off from the influence from the living beings in the other apartments in the building.  And I also think they deserve to be cut off from my influence if I’m working serious magic, as I have no right to subject them to that.  Further, a cast circle, as a consequence of cutting us off from outside influences, can encourage us to be more open to the influence of the beings that are in the circle with us–both human beings and non-corporeal beings.  I am more willing to make myself vulnerable in circle because I know that the only beings in the circle with me are those whom I have an intimate relationship with.  Obviously, this doesn’t apply to public rituals, and I think that cast circles are less often helpful in public settings.  (This is one of the reasons why I don’t think Wiccanate ritual should be the default for “pan-pagan” settings.)


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