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Author Topic: Your religion, or your magic?  (Read 26913 times)
Waldfrau
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« Reply #15: October 06, 2008, 04:58:53 am »

There's a reason spells can't be called 'prayers to mother nature', no?
Can anyone remember where we did discuss this? I can't find it, I've been entering 'prayer', 'spell' and 'difference' into the search engine in different combinations, no result, but I'm sure there was quite a (or several) discussion/s about this somewhere here.  Angry Huh
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« Reply #16: October 06, 2008, 07:00:00 am »

What do you mean by "honest"?

If you're implying that non-Pagan religions practice magic but are lying about it, that would be incorrect.
No I wouldn't call it lying-- denial, maybe.

Magic is heavily context-dependent; each religious culture defines for itself what constitutes "magic" and what constitutes "religion," and how the two interact.  In religions like Christianity, "magic" is "unofficial, unorthodox, forbidden," so orthodox, approved practices, even those that bear a superficial resemblance to practices deemed "magical," are not magic.
 

I see what you're saying, however I'd suggest that if you're performing a spell, you're performing a spell, no matter what you call it.  It becomes denial, or even outright dishonesty, when orthodox practices start to resemble 'magical' ones, and the orthodox practitioner decries 'magic' as fake, oogie-boogie, or just plain evil. 

For instance, two disparate traditions can use incense to create sacred space.  Religion A uses it to cleanse a circle, and in that tradition it might be best termed an (admittedly minor) act of magic; Religion B uses it to bless an altar as an act of faith.  Cultural context notwithstanding, in either case the intent and the method are pretty dang close.  If Religion B wants to hold forth the opinion that 'magic' = oogie-boogie badness, and some of its practices resemble what the oogie-boogies do, then in my opinion it ought to be more honest about what it's doing and why.  If 'magic' is bad, why imitate it, even superficially? 

Suppose we both had beads, both consecrated in some ritual involving them being smudged and asperged with salted water.  Suppose further that I told you my beads were blessed and holy, but yours were dirtypaganmagiceeeeevil.  You'd be perfectly justified in telling me I'm full of caca. 
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« Reply #17: October 06, 2008, 07:03:51 am »

Suppose we both had beads, both consecrated in some ritual involving them being smudged and asperged with salted water.  Suppose further that I told you my beads were blessed and holy, but yours were dirtypaganmagiceeeeevil.  You'd be perfectly justified in telling me I'm full of caca. 

In terms of one group telling another what they are *really* doing, it seems to me that you're engaging in similar behaviour.

Further, if one group calls X act magic, and another group calls it ceremony, why is it assumed that the magic label is *more* correct?  Again, to me that looks like what you are doing here.
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« Reply #18: October 06, 2008, 07:40:00 am »

For instance, two disparate traditions can use incense to create sacred space.  Religion A uses it to cleanse a circle, and in that tradition it might be best termed an (admittedly minor) act of magic; Religion B uses it to bless an altar as an act of faith.  Cultural context notwithstanding, in either case the intent and the method are pretty dang close.  If Religion B wants to hold forth the opinion that 'magic' = oogie-boogie badness, and some of its practices resemble what the oogie-boogies do, then in my opinion it ought to be more honest about what it's doing and why.  If 'magic' is bad, why imitate it, even superficially?

What if the non-magical group had that ceremony first?  Are you saying that they should change what they do because someone else is doing something similar and calling it something else?

Also, I think intent matters a lot here.  If I'm using the incense to please my god, that's a HELL of a different mental act and procedure than doing it because it has intrinsic properties - no matter how it looks to a third party.
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« Reply #19: October 06, 2008, 07:41:29 am »

In terms of one group telling another what they are *really* doing, it seems to me that you're engaging in similar behaviour.
No, that was just a hypothetical.


Further, if one group calls X act magic, and another group calls it ceremony, why is it assumed that the magic label is *more* correct?  Again, to me that looks like what you are doing here.
No, I'm not dictating anything, in fact I'm saying that those who assume their label is more correct need to take a more honest look at what they're doing.  To me it's not about being *more* correct, but just about calling it like it is.   The old adage applies: if it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.  If one group calls X act magic, and another group calls it ceremony, then it's disingenuous for the ceremony-group to say the magic-group is doing something 'bad,' and in that sense the ceremony-group is being less than honest... which is what I meant when I originally posted in this thread.  Probably should have gone with more than a pithy one-liner, huh?
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« Reply #20: October 06, 2008, 07:56:04 am »

No I wouldn't call it lying-- denial, maybe.
 
I see what you're saying, however I'd suggest that if you're performing a spell, you're performing a spell, no matter what you call it.  It becomes denial, or even outright dishonesty, when orthodox practices start to resemble 'magical' ones, and the orthodox practitioner decries 'magic' as fake, oogie-boogie, or just plain evil. 

For instance, two disparate traditions can use incense to create sacred space.  Religion A uses it to cleanse a circle, and in that tradition it might be best termed an (admittedly minor) act of magic; Religion B uses it to bless an altar as an act of faith.  Cultural context notwithstanding, in either case the intent and the method are pretty dang close.  If Religion B wants to hold forth the opinion that 'magic' = oogie-boogie badness, and some of its practices resemble what the oogie-boogies do, then in my opinion it ought to be more honest about what it's doing and why.  If 'magic' is bad, why imitate it, even superficially? 

Suppose we both had beads, both consecrated in some ritual involving them being smudged and asperged with salted water.  Suppose further that I told you my beads were blessed and holy, but yours were dirtypaganmagiceeeeevil.  You'd be perfectly justified in telling me I'm full of caca. 

It is actively unethical, by the standards of scholars who study religion and magic from a social-science perspective (anthropologists, folklorists, etc.), to tell other people what they're REALLY doing, to play as if we understand their own practices better than they do.

As I said before, what constitutes "magic" and what constitutes "religious practice" are pretty much entirely context-specific.  In Christianity (and in, say, certain strains of ancient Greek religion), "magic" is defined in part as "illegitimate uses of religious power," and therefore, official practices within those religions are by definition *not* magic. Other religions, such as Wicca, and certain strains of African Diaspora Religions, have a more porous understanding of the boundaries between "maic" and "religion," so the "illegitimate use of religious power" definition does not apply.  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. 

And your "blessed beads" example is *exactly* the kind of problematic attitude that scholars are obligated to avoid:  you feel perfectly able to characterize OTHERS' practices according to *your* definitions of the relationship between magic and religion, but complain when others define your practices according to THEIR belief systems.  "Magic" vs."Religion" are NOT absolute, objective categories, but depend *entirely* on how particular religious cultures understand them.     
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« Reply #21: October 06, 2008, 09:38:18 am »

No, that was just a hypothetical.

No, I'm not dictating anything, in fact I'm saying that those who assume their label is more correct need to take a more honest look at what they're doing. 


In the interests of honesty let's stop talking hypothetically.  Whenever this has come up before in a thread, it has become quickly apparent that the poster is talking about Christianity.

Quote
To me it's not about being *more* correct, but just about calling it like it is.

Sure that's what you call it.  How do you think your 'hypothetical' group regards it when they call evil magic 'like it is.'

Quote
   The old adage applies: if it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

Except maybe to an expert, who maybe says 'I know it looks like a duck, but it's actually from a different family.'  Superficial similarities do not always indicate something being the *same.*  When I walk around in town with my boyfriend, I'm sure we look like just a couple of friends.  We walk like a couple of friends, we talk like a couple of friends...

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  If one group calls X act magic, and another group calls it ceremony, then it's disingenuous for the ceremony-group to say the magic-group is doing something 'bad,' and in that sense the ceremony-group is being less than honest...

Who is saying that the act is the same?  It seems clear to me that you'retalking about Christianity as your group of choice, so why not just tell me what specific act looks like magic to you?  Because I don't remember anything of Church when I went as a kid that looked like magic.

Quote
which is what I meant when I originally posted in this thread.  Probably should have gone with more than a pithy one-liner, huh?

Believe it or not, I take issue with the substance of what you are saying, not the dressing.  You are saying that two things are the same.  I am suggesting that this is your perception, and that calling others dishonest is more or less equivalent to defining what others are doing for them.
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« Reply #22: October 06, 2008, 10:17:52 am »

Who is saying that the act is the same?  It seems clear to me that you'retalking about Christianity as your group of choice, so why not just tell me what specific act looks like magic to you?  Because I don't remember anything of Church when I went as a kid that looked like magic.

I do remember, when I first started really getting into Paganism, seeing some (again, superficial) resemblance in ceremony and trappings between the service at my church and what I was reading of Neo-Wiccan ritual.  There were candles and flowers on the altar, for example, and offerings (monetary, and the communion elements) were offered up on the altar.  The church I went to had the congregation gather around the altar in a circle for communion, which read to me at the time as a direct correlation to a Wiccan circle and cakes and ale.  Although we didn't use incense, I had some vague awareness that Catholic churches did.  Plenty of superficial similarities...

...But that's religious ritual structure, not magic per se.  Also, again, superficial similarities.  Sure, maybe some things looked the same.  Looking the same doesn't make them the same.
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« Reply #23: October 06, 2008, 10:26:42 am »

Plenty of superficial similarities...

...But that's religious ritual structure, not magic per se.  Also, again, superficial similarities.  Sure, maybe some things looked the same.  Looking the same doesn't make them the same.

I think what gets overlooked is that when one claims to perform magic, one is claiming to cause something to happen by X set of actions.  Religious ceremony does not necessarily claim this.  Depending on your view point, transubstantiation may qualify, but even in that case, the priest isn't claiming to cause the wine to turn into blood (and I suspect would lean towards the 'metaphorical/ symbolic' point of view).  The religious ceremony may, for example, celebrate a mythological occurrence, reenact an event, or talk about X Y or Z.  That is entirely different from saying '..and because we've done that, it's going to rain.'
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« Reply #24: October 06, 2008, 10:54:13 am »

The two seem to be pretty entwined for quite a few people; I wonder why that is?

Well, for me personally, two parts of my path are religious witchcraft.  So, to do a religious ritual, I'm also doing magic - casting circle, for example.  (Not all NeoWiccans see it like this, however.)  Thelema is also strongly associated with ceremonial magic also, although it doesn't have to be and not all Thelemites see it as a religion either.  Not all members of the Department practice magic or are pagan, but there's definitely an approach to magic in there for those who are interested.
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« Reply #25: October 06, 2008, 11:19:00 am »

...Which came first?

Did you practice magic before you found/developed your religious path? Or did you already have your religious leanings before you began to delve into magic?

In your own personal view of things, is the one in direct correlation with the other? Or do you view them as completely separate things? Why?

I'm a pagan who essentially doesn't practice magic (halting attempts at divination are about as close as I come). It's the religion that matters for me.

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« Reply #26: October 06, 2008, 11:22:27 am »

...transubstantiation may qualify, but even in that case, the priest isn't claiming to cause the wine to turn into blood (and I suspect would lean towards the 'metaphorical/ symbolic' point of view). 

I'm far from an expert on this--consult Koi--but my understanding is that, at least according to Catholic dogma, there's no metaphor involved; transubstantiation is supposed to actually transform the wine into Christ's blood, and the wafer into Christ's body.

But like I said, I'm no expert.
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« Reply #27: October 06, 2008, 12:36:26 pm »

I'm far from an expert on this--consult Koi--but my understanding is that, at least according to Catholic dogma, there's no metaphor involved; transubstantiation is supposed to actually transform the wine into Christ's blood, and the wafer into Christ's body.

But like I said, I'm no expert.

I know what the dogma is alleged to say, but I think most people can recognise the taste of wine. Wink
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« Reply #28: October 06, 2008, 01:18:31 pm »

In religions like Christianity, "magic" is "unofficial, unorthodox, forbidden," so orthodox, approved practices, even those that bear a superficial resemblance to practices deemed "magical," are not magic. 

In much of Christianity, magic is just superstition. It's not that it's forbidden, it's that it's imaginary, superstitious. If it works, it's definitionally not magic, since magic doesn't exist. Smiley
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« Reply #29: October 06, 2008, 01:22:13 pm »

There were candles and flowers on the altar, for example, and offerings (monetary, and the communion elements) were offered up on the altar.  The church I went to had the congregation gather around the altar in a circle for communion, which read to me at the time as a direct correlation to a Wiccan circle and cakes and ale.  Although we didn't use incense, I had some vague awareness that Catholic churches did.  Plenty of superficial similarities...

Also bears plenty of superficial similarities to a child's birthday party, with decorations, candles, sharing of ceremonial food in a circular formation, and offerings given to one being honored.

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