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Author Topic: Paganism and Magic  (Read 16696 times)
Juniper
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« Topic Start: June 11, 2008, 09:35:24 pm »

I've been thinking about the link between Paganism and magic. The two are often seen grouped together in bookstores and the like. But what I find really interesting is that they are often found together in an individual's religious path.

So my question is, why is there a link between the two? What is it about the many different Pagan religions that magic is often an integral part of them? Or even if magic isn't a part of your Pagan path, an outsider may assume otherwise. Why do you think that is?

From my own experience, I've found that a practitioner of a Pagan religion is much more likely to practice magic than a Christian, Muslim, or Jewish person. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on why.
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catja6
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« Reply #1: June 11, 2008, 10:21:06 pm »

I've been thinking about the link between Paganism and magic. The two are often seen grouped together in bookstores and the like. But what I find really interesting is that they are often found together in an individual's religious path.

So my question is, why is there a link between the two? What is it about the many different Pagan religions that magic is often an integral part of them? Or even if magic isn't a part of your Pagan path, an outsider may assume otherwise. Why do you think that is?

From my own experience, I've found that a practitioner of a Pagan religion is much more likely to practice magic than a Christian, Muslim, or Jewish person. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on why.


Magic is *not* integral to the practice of all Pagan religions.  However, Wicca and other forms of rligious witchcraft -- where magic is a crucial part of religious practice -- are by far the largest and best known Pagan religions.  Every single one of your questions can be answered by "because Wicca is the dominant Pagan religion, and its norms get applied to everything else, even religions that have nothing in common with Wicca." 
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RandallS
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« Reply #2: June 11, 2008, 10:30:03 pm »

Or even if magic isn't a part of your Pagan path, an outsider may assume otherwise. Why do you think that is?

Magic is not a part of Hellenic Paganism. Magic and the religion do not mix.  One can be a Hellenic Pagan and use magic, but it is little different than being a Christian and using magic -- its not part of the religion.
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« Reply #3: June 11, 2008, 10:38:54 pm »

Magic is *not* integral to the practice of all Pagan religions.  However, Wicca and other forms of rligious witchcraft -- where magic is a crucial part of religious practice -- are by far the largest and best known Pagan religions.  Every single one of your questions can be answered by "because Wicca is the dominant Pagan religion, and its norms get applied to everything else, even religions that have nothing in common with Wicca." 

I realise that magic may not be integral to all of the Pagan paths. It's not integral to mine. But I've known quite a number of non-Wiccan Pagans who practice magic, yet I haven't (yet) met a Christian who practices magic. I was just wondering why it is that Pagans seem more likely to practice magic than a person from a JCI religion. I was musing that maybe they are more open-minded towards it. Sorry if I caused offense.
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« Reply #4: June 11, 2008, 10:42:45 pm »

But I've known quite a number of non-Wiccan Pagans who practice magic, yet I haven't (yet) met a Christian who practices magic.

I've met many Christians who practice magic. Many ceremonial mages are Christian, there are lots of folk magicans in texas who would have fit if someone thought they were not Christian. etc.
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« Reply #5: June 11, 2008, 10:50:11 pm »

I've met many Christians who practice magic. Many ceremonial mages are Christian, there are lots of folk magicans in texas who would have fit if someone thought they were not Christian. etc.

Then I suppose because my personal experience with such people is limited, it makes me sound completely ignorant. Which I suppose I am. But I have only come into contact with those Christians who believe magic is an evil art. I haven't been fortunate enough to bump into a person who is both Christian and a practitioner of magic.
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And heart's frosty discipline
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« Reply #6: June 12, 2008, 12:04:14 am »

Then I suppose because my personal experience with such people is limited, it makes me sound completely ignorant. Which I suppose I am. But I have only come into contact with those Christians who believe magic is an evil art. I haven't been fortunate enough to bump into a person who is both Christian and a practitioner of magic.

Most existing folk magic systems in the West arose in a Christian context:  Randall mentioned folk practitioners in Texas, which includes curanderismo (sp?), who identify as Christian.  In addition, the vast majority of hoodoo doctors identify as Christian; African Diasporic magical systems in general are Christian-inflected.  Ceremonial magic is thoroughly infused with the language and imagery of Christianity and Judaism (and in some places, Islam). 

Christianity does have a prohibition against magic, but that didn't really stop the people who wanted to practice.  Folklorist Sabina Magliocco remarked that many Italian folk magicians don't give a hoot that the priest disapproves, because priests disapprove of *everything*.
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Juniper
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« Reply #7: June 12, 2008, 12:10:40 am »

Most existing folk magic systems in the West arose in a Christian context:  Randall mentioned folk practitioners in Texas, which includes curanderismo (sp?), who identify as Christian.  In addition, the vast majority of hoodoo doctors identify as Christian; African Diasporic magical systems in general are Christian-inflected.  Ceremonial magic is thoroughly infused with the language and imagery of Christianity and Judaism (and in some places, Islam). 

You know, I hadn't even thought of half of these examples. Perhaps it is because I haven't come into contact with anyone who practices these things. Not that I mean to ignore them or anything, but because magic isn't really something that I heavily involve myself in it isn't really something that I research. But I have looked up Curanderismo to find out more, and I'm finding it an interesting read. Thanks.
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'How she longed for winter then!-
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And heart's frosty discipline
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« Reply #8: June 12, 2008, 12:25:05 am »

You know, I hadn't even thought of half of these examples. Perhaps it is because I haven't come into contact with anyone who practices these things. Not that I mean to ignore them or anything, but because magic isn't really something that I heavily involve myself in it isn't really something that I research. But I have looked up Curanderismo to find out more, and I'm finding it an interesting read. Thanks.

Hope I spelled it right.  Smiley  Also, check out luckymojo.com, which is a great resource on hoodoo -- there's extensive info on hoodoo's relationship to both Christianity (especially the Spiritual churches) and African Traditional Religions.
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Juniper
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« Reply #9: June 12, 2008, 12:27:26 am »

Hope I spelled it right.  Smiley  Also, check out luckymojo.com, which is a great resource on hoodoo -- there's extensive info on hoodoo's relationship to both Christianity (especially the Spiritual churches) and African Traditional Religions.

Yep, you did. And thanks for the info, I'll check it out.
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Scrupulously austere in its order
Of white and black
Ice and rock; each sentiment within border,
And heart's frosty discipline
Exact as a snowflake'
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« Reply #10: June 12, 2008, 01:22:41 am »


From my own experience, I've found that a practitioner of a Pagan religion is much more likely to practice magic than a Christian, Muslim, or Jewish person. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on why.


Hmmm, I've know more than a few Christians who were involved in healing, protecting themselves from evil, and performing exorcisms, all via energy from somewhere. And what about all those prayers being uttered for prosperity, good weather, and healthy children?  Priests are involved in mystical rites with their smoky thuribles and all that Holy water they sprinkle around.  Mormons baptize people long after they've died, and many Mullahs offer assistance with Islamic folk magic, it's sometimes referred to as Islamic Black Magic.

Magic on some level is an important part of almost every religion on the planet.  Magic practice can be very subtle, and is usually given more religiously acceptable names.

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« Reply #11: June 12, 2008, 04:53:06 am »

Hmmm, I've know more than a few Christians who were involved in healing, protecting themselves from evil, and performing exorcisms, all via energy from somewhere. And what about all those prayers being uttered for prosperity, good weather, and healthy children?  Priests are involved in mystical rites with their smoky thuribles and all that Holy water they sprinkle around.  Mormons baptize people long after they've died, and many Mullahs offer assistance with Islamic folk magic, it's sometimes referred to as Islamic Black Magic.

Magic on some level is an important part of almost every religion on the planet.  Magic practice can be very subtle, and is usually given more religiously acceptable names.



That isn't really true either, and is related to the same problem discussed earlier.  What constitutes "magic" and what constitutes "religious practice" are *highly* context-specific.  In Christianity (and in, say, ancient Greek religion), "magic" is defined in part as "illegitimate uses of religious power," and therefore, official practices such as the ones you describe are *not* magic.  Attempting to define certain practices as "magic," when the religious culture under consideration would not have considered it such, is problematic, and from a scholarly ethics perspective, offensive.
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« Reply #12: June 12, 2008, 08:16:36 am »

Hmmm, I've know more than a few Christians who were involved in healing, protecting themselves from evil, and performing exorcisms, all via energy from somewhere. And what about all those prayers being uttered for prosperity, good weather, and healthy children?  Priests are involved in mystical rites with their smoky thuribles and all that Holy water they sprinkle around.  Mormons baptize people long after they've died, and many Mullahs offer assistance with Islamic folk magic, it's sometimes referred to as Islamic Black Magic.

However, neither the religion nor the Gods or people involved see those things as magic. While others my want to define them as magic, that's really no different than what the fundies do when they define magic as "working with Satan."
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« Reply #13: June 12, 2008, 09:14:40 am »

That isn't really true either, and is related to the same problem discussed earlier.  What constitutes "magic" and what constitutes "religious practice" are *highly* context-specific.  In Christianity (and in, say, ancient Greek religion), "magic" is defined in part as "illegitimate uses of religious power," and therefore, official practices such as the ones you describe are *not* magic.  Attempting to define certain practices as "magic," when the religious culture under consideration would not have considered it such, is problematic, and from a scholarly ethics perspective, offensive.

Great point, but then I'm not a scholar, I'm more of a pragmatc sociologist.  If I field a question I'll likely answer it in a commonsensical manner.  For example, if I see a religious group eating other people in a ritual, I'll refer to it as cannibalism.  My reality isn't formed by their beliefs.  Neither is my reality formed by the beliefs of the religious groups I mentioned in my earlier post referring to their magical practices.  I don't live in their boxes, and because of that my thinking isn't constrained by their cultural rituals and taboos.

From a sociological perspective my comments would be considered mere observations from a slightly biased source.  That's what they were presented as.
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« Reply #14: June 12, 2008, 09:44:55 am »

However, neither the religion nor the Gods or people involved see those things as magic. While others my want to define them as magic, that's really no different than what the fundies do when they define magic as "working with Satan."

Ahh but Randall, that puts the whole deal in a circle jerk.  When the fundies proclaim magic to be "working with Satan,"  they're making a proclamation based on their religious belief, and they're condemning the folks who are practicing magic.  They're working out of a self defined box which only permits them to come to that decision.

When I suggest many religious practices to be workings of subtle magic that have been given more religiously acceptable names, I'm not making religiously based proclamations, and I'm certainly not condemning them for their beliefs.  I'm offering food for thought, a simple comparison.  My constraints are broader than a literal interpretation of one religious text.

 
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