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Author Topic: High Magick,Low Magic,What's The Difference?  (Read 11991 times)
nikkiwitch
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« Topic Start: October 02, 2008, 05:48:27 pm »


 One of my old boyfriends told me that he practices High Magic while I only practice Low Magic,what's the difference? Was he trying to insult me? Was he trying to make me feel inferior to him?
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« Reply #1: October 02, 2008, 06:02:03 pm »

One of my old boyfriends told me that he practices High Magic while I only practice Low Magic,what's the difference? Was he trying to insult me? Was he trying to make me feel inferior to him?

Unfortunately he probably was insulting you, but also making a complete twat of himself at the same time. Once upon a time (probably pre dark ages) magic was one thing and one thing only, you did, it worked, then somewhere between 1000 and 1300 ad it all went pear shaped and practising magic became taboo, the "high" magicians continued to justify practising thier trade by christianising it and making it some how "higher" as they dealt with "angels" and "demons". Whilst the more earthy side of magic became the realm of the witch. No less valid but a different, perhaps more practical side of magic dealing with the imminent here and now.

As a result, witchcraft has evolved "generally" to deal with more base here and now things whilst ceremonial magic is more about the "higher" self which is where this whole low and high magic malarky has come in, it's now used by both side to make the other inadequate by those who have learned "just" enough to make themselves sound supercilious. No real "high" magic pracitioner would ever use the phrase in the conext you are giving, just as neither would a poor "lowley" witch (as they may be) who doesn't at least have a little comprehension of the grander ritual of things.

Just ignore the bugger and smile sweetly, thats what I say Cheesy
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« Reply #2: October 02, 2008, 06:16:21 pm »

One of my old boyfriends told me that he practices High Magic while I only practice Low Magic,what's the difference? Was he trying to insult me? Was he trying to make me feel inferior to him?

High magic refers to ceremonial type magic. Everything must be done with great precision. Timing must be accurate, materials are specific, even the names of things have to be pronounced correctly. There's usually math involved Tongue

Low magic refers to more casual practices like witchcraft, which in general is much more intuitive and off the cuff.

Neither is necessarily better. Just different.

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« Reply #3: October 02, 2008, 06:18:47 pm »

Was he trying to insult me? Was he trying to make me feel inferior to him?

If he did mean it as an insult it was a pretty empty one.
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« Reply #4: October 02, 2008, 06:42:49 pm »

Unfortunately he probably was insulting you, but also making a complete twat of himself at the same time. Once upon a time (probably pre dark ages) magic was one thing and one thing only, you did, it worked, then somewhere between 1000 and 1300 ad it all went pear shaped and practising magic became taboo, the "high" magicians continued to justify practising thier trade by christianising it and making it some how "higher" as they dealt with "angels" and "demons". Whilst the more earthy side of magic became the realm of the witch. No less valid but a different, perhaps more practical side of magic dealing with the imminent here and now.

As a result, witchcraft has evolved "generally" to deal with more base here and now things whilst ceremonial magic is more about the "higher" self which is where this whole low and high magic malarky has come in, it's now used by both side to make the other inadequate by those who have learned "just" enough to make themselves sound supercilious. No real "high" magic pracitioner would ever use the phrase in the conext you are giving, just as neither would a poor "lowley" witch (as they may be) who doesn't at least have a little comprehension of the grander ritual of things.


Weeeelll... not exactly.  You're right that the "High/Low" division was primarily a slam term devised by snotty ceremonial types wanting to distinguish themselves from villagers messing about with herbs, but the history isn't correct.  What usually gets called "High Magic" in the West are the kinds of magic that required lots of money and/or education to practice:  hermeticism, the Kabbalah, Enochian magic, magical alchemy, everything that's usually called "ceremonial" magic today, etc..  It's the stuff that derives from the urban, learned traditions of Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian mystical occultists.  And it certainly did NOT begin with Christianity; the roots of the learned Western esoteric tradition are in ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, and the traditions of various "wonder workers," holy men (like Apollonius of Tyana), "natural philosophers," the ancient Greek "goes" (kind of a psychopomp/necromancer), and so on.  All of these folks were very keen to distinguish themselves from villagers practicing folk magic (especially old women brewing love potions, and the like).  The primary thing about a lot of this magic is that it's practiced by people of *privilege*:  these are people with money for books and plenty of leisure time, and an extensive education (in languages, at the very least).  

"Low magic," on the other hand, are the folk traditions of people who don't have money or fancy educations; it tends to be about everyday needs -- money, love, protection.  Low magic, and the people who practiced it, is very *practical*.  These people simply do not have the time to faff about communicating with angels, when they have to worry about things like feeding themselves through the winter.  While many village "cunning folk" tended to have a bit more education than most villagers, they used their magic for very practical purposes that mattered to people who didn't have a lot of money.  Also, another common thing about folk magic is that it's *really* adaptable; ceremonial magic systems are usually tied into some kind of metaphysical "metanarrative" (i.e., mystical Judaic thought, for the Kabbalah), while folk magic is more about particular ingredients and techniques that can work whatever the dominant cultural narrative is:  things like magical uses of herbs often remain consistent whether the dominant religion is pagan or Christian.  

Instead of "High"/"Low," "ceremonial" and "folk" work much better; not only do they not imply value judgments, but they're more accurate descriptions.

There's nothing wrong with either of these approaches to magic
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« Reply #5: October 02, 2008, 06:46:21 pm »

High magic refers to ceremonial type magic. Everything must be done with great precision. Timing must be accurate, materials are specific, even the names of things have to be pronounced correctly. There's usually math involved Tongue

Low magic refers to more casual practices like witchcraft, which in general is much more intuitive and off the cuff.

Neither is necessarily better. Just different.



Not necessarily; specific ingredients and techniques are important in folk magic, which tends to locate power within the ingredients themselves, rather than the "Will," or whatever, of the practitioner.  But folk magic/witchcraft does tend to be practical, and is more likely to use common materials rather than super-exotic and rare stuff.
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« Reply #6: October 02, 2008, 08:06:48 pm »

Instead of "High"/"Low," "ceremonial" and "folk" work much better; not only do they not imply value judgments, but they're more accurate descriptions.

Just a quick question: what is natural witchcraft/cottage witchery if not 'low' magic? Because you've used the term 'folk' magic as if it's inter-changeable with 'low' magic. I thought there was a difference between folk magic and the various forms of witchcraft, and I've always thought of the natural witchcraft that I practice to also be low magic.  Am I wrong somwhere? Huh
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« Reply #7: October 02, 2008, 09:57:49 pm »

Just a quick question: what is natural witchcraft/cottage witchery if not 'low' magic? Because you've used the term 'folk' magic as if it's inter-changeable with 'low' magic. I thought there was a difference between folk magic and the various forms of witchcraft, and I've always thought of the natural witchcraft that I practice to also be low magic.  Am I wrong somwhere? Huh

"Folk magic" is a generic term for the vast collection of unofficial, mostly orally-transmitted beliefs/ingredients/spells that were practiced by people outside of the learned Western esoteric formal traditions.  As for "witchcraft," it rather depends what you mean.  For most of the word's history, it meant "malevolent magic," and folks who practiced beneficient/benign folk magic didn't tend to describe themselves as witches (hence terms like "cunning wo/man").  Starting in the late 18th-early 19th centuries, when witchcraft was no longer a punishable offense, some folk magicians in some regions started describing themselves (or were described as) as "white/good witches." 

Witches today claim a lineage (in spirit) to those folk magicians who would have been described as "cunning wo/men" or "white witches"; the word definitely implies a linkage to that folk magic tradition.  So "witchcraft" is, I think, best understood as one possible term for folk, or folk-influenced, magic.   But "witchcraft" does tend to connote a European, especially Western European-influenced practice; folk magicians in non-European traditions don't necessarily call themselves "witches" (Hoodoo, for example, tends to use "conjure wo/man," "root doctor," "two-headed wo/man", etc., rather than "witch").  The word "witch," and its reclamation, arose within some pretty specifically European contexts:  the very usage of "witch" is ideological -- it's a deliberate reclamation and redefinition of the word against that of the Christian churches during the witch hunts. 

At the same time, *religious* witchcraft traditions, like Wicca, are often *strongly* influenced by those formalized Western ceremonial magic traditions, for good reason -- folk magic doesn't offer anything resembling a coherent system.  But sometimes, in modern witchcraft (religious or otherwise), the connection to folk practitioners is more of a fantasy than not -- witness the way many Neo-Wiccan sorts turn up their noses at the "grossness" and "immorality" of a lot of recorded folk magic. 

         
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« Reply #8: October 02, 2008, 10:13:36 pm »

Witches today claim a lineage (in spirit) to those folk magicians who would have been described as "cunning wo/men" or "white witches"; the word definitely implies a linkage to that folk magic tradition.  So "witchcraft" is, I think, best understood as one possible term for folk, or folk-influenced, magic.   But "witchcraft" does tend to connote a European, especially Western European-influenced practice; folk magicians in non-European traditions don't necessarily call themselves "witches" (Hoodoo, for example, tends to use "conjure wo/man," "root doctor," "two-headed wo/man", etc., rather than "witch").  The word "witch," and its reclamation, arose within some pretty specifically European contexts:  the very usage of "witch" is ideological -- it's a deliberate reclamation and redefinition of the word against that of the Christian churches during the witch hunts.       

Folk-influenced magic. I understand this. Thankyou for your explanation.
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« Reply #9: October 03, 2008, 07:00:08 am »

One of my old boyfriends told me that he practices High Magic while I only practice Low Magic,what's the difference?

There's another definition of High/Low magic besides the one talked about here. In this other version, High magic is magic done to improve yourself spiritually. Low magick is magic done to affect the world (love spells, money spells, etc.)  This is not the common usage of the terms, however.
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« Reply #10: October 03, 2008, 01:18:14 pm »

Unfortunately he probably was insulting you, but also making a complete twat of himself at the same time.

Just ignore the bugger and smile sweetly, thats what I say Cheesy

 I am no longer with this guy, he calls but I don't return his phone calls.Of course he has plenty of time to do "High Magic" he lives with mommy and daddy and doesn't have to pay bills,he doesn't have to do low magick like I do to be able to put food on the table and clothes on my back.
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« Reply #11: October 03, 2008, 01:22:39 pm »

One of my old boyfriends told me that he practices High Magic while I only practice Low Magic,what's the difference? Was he trying to insult me? Was he trying to make me feel inferior to him?

Many of the posters here comments do reflect the more modern understanding of High vs Low. As an x-ceremonial magician of the GD persuasion, I have discovered that this term meant something else in the Middle Ages of the Near East. Yes, Egyptian cosmology and Greek magic was influential, but so was Chaldean. Part of the Chaldean cosmology involved the existence of an 'upper world' and a 'lower world'.

When the Arabs invaded what is now Iraq and enlisted the local to translate both Greek and Nabatean text into Arabic, they became aware of this magical cosmology. They used the word 'ulwee' for higher realm and 'suflee' for lower or underworld. They classified much of the magic that they did as ulwee or suflee. High magic became the magic involving angels and elevated spiritual beings. Low magic became the magic involving demons and evil djinn. It would obviously be hard to use demons for spiritual development, if you belong to JCI persuasion, but you could still use high magic for material gains and benefits. The idea of right-hand path vs left-hand path or white vs black didn't exist in their ancient literature, only high vs low. Many important Arabic texts were translated into English and impacted the development of magic in Europe. Most famous of all is the translation of Emerald Tablet of Hermes that talks about things above being reflections of things below.

These days things have changed primarily to the influence of the Golden Dawn and Crowley. The basic claim is that high magic uses complex rituals vs low magic 'simplistic' rituals and that high magic is about spiritual development versus low magic that is about spells. However, check out much of the literature and you will find that high magic these days does work with demons. Most magicians who work high magic and summon spirits do so obviously for material gain. This is the case whether you are looking at the magical squares in Abramelin or the mundane benefits of demons from goetia, etc. So, yes, there is a bit of hypocrisy going on here that is rooted in intellectual elitism.

Just my 2cents ...


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« Reply #12: October 03, 2008, 01:58:16 pm »

.

These days things have changed primarily to the influence of the Golden Dawn and Crowley. The basic claim is that high magic uses complex rituals vs low magic 'simplistic' rituals and that high magic is about spiritual development versus low magic that is about spells. However, check out much of the literature and you will find that high magic these days does work with demons. Most magicians who work high magic and summon spirits do so obviously for material gain

 



 I could see him using demons to do his bidding, he certainly had a huge collection of books on the subject.



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« Reply #13: October 03, 2008, 02:39:26 pm »

I could see him using demons to do his bidding, he certainly had a huge collection of books on the subject.





If he was to do that, IMHO, he would qualify as low magic type magician and your spells would qualify you as high magic Smiley

Naturally, if his occult education was solely based on books produced by Weiser and Llewellyn, he might think you were just pulling his leg.
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« Reply #14: October 04, 2008, 12:42:01 am »

There's another definition of High/Low magic besides the one talked about here. In this other version, High magic is magic done to improve yourself spiritually. Low magick is magic done to affect the world (love spells, money spells, etc.)  This is not the common usage of the terms, however.

*nods* I can see how it kind of fits, but it doesn't exactly work, I don't think -- it's too reductive.  On the one hand, magic for spiritual enlightenment implies that there is some kind a) sense of what "enlightenment" means and b) a system to achieve that -- and folk/"low" magic simply isn't coherent enough, it's too amorphous and adaptable.  So, because ceremonial magic systems are formal, coherent systems intimately bound up with a particular spiritual outlook (mystical Judaism or Christianity or whatever), a specific "system for spiritual improvement" is possible.  If people outside those educated traditions wanted to achieve spiritual enlighenment, they were likely to seek it through means *other* than magic.  So in that sense, yes, the "spiritual" vs. "material" definitions hold up. 

On the other hand, as lightworker pointed out, there are certainly plenty of ceremonial/"high" magic spells designed to affect the world, enrich the magician, etc., which seriously compromises the claim.  Dividing "high" and "low" that way also reifies the divide between material and spiritual -- and valorizes the spiritual at the expense of the material -- that is not a feature of all magic systems, even in the West.  Just because most of the ceremonial sorts are heavily influenced by NeoPlatonism doesn't mean that we should automatically agree with their claims -- all that does is yet again let the people from the upper-class (and heavily male) traditions define the terms of the discourse. 

I still think that high/low magic is best understood in terms of formalization and coherence of an overall system, and of class origins, to be a more reliable definitional divide than anything else.   
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