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To Know, to Will, to Dare...
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Finding the God (From Christian to Pagan -Part II)
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Visits from the Departed
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Breaking the Law of Return
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Karma and Sin
The Sin Concept
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Embracing my Inner Goddess through Belly Dance
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April 27th. 2014 ...
Mental Illness in the Pagan Community
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Six Rules for Safer Pagan Sex: A Guide
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Morality and Controversy in the Craft
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Religion, Magick and Spellwork
Article ID: 9033
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,629
Times Read: 3,215
Author: Aidan Odinson
Posted: February 20th. 2005
Times Viewed: 3,215
Religion, magick and spellwork are for me three aspects of a basic truth. Of course, that partly comes from how I define those three words, and to some they are the three most-debated definitions in theology. To show how I arrive at my conclusions to this subject, it is necessary to state how I define those three terms.
The dictionary on my bookshelf offers a number of definitions to “religion, ” including that it is a personal set of religious beliefs and practices. That is the closest it offers to my own definition. My personal definition of “religion” is that religion is the process of establishing and maintaining a relationship with the Divine. The question of groups or “corporate worship” is not part of my definition unless the individual concerned makes it a part of their religion. To me, the definition does not need to address affiliation or attendance, but rather what is done on a regular basis.
Spellwork, as I see it, is the combination of prayer and ritual used by the individual, either alone or as a member of a group.
Magick is the result achieved by spellwork. Magick is an inherent result of spellwork, and spellwork is inherent in any religion which I have studied.
My last sentence is one which has gotten me into many arguments, especially with Christian Fundamentalists. It is a fact nevertheless. When a Priest transforms bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, what else is that but spellwork and magick? Jewish parents bring their child to a synagogue, there is a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and the child becomes an adult. Zen meditation, a Quaker meeting, or monastic contemplative exercises often have spectacular results. And when someone insists that his or her faith does not do spellwork or magick, my typical question of them is: “Then do you mean that the only thing you got from baptism was getting wet?”
I have no doubt that magick can be done without religion, and I have experienced it. The potential of the thoughtform brought together by the will is quite powerful, and it can indeed be brought about without the Divine. But that is not my path, and I wish to have my spellwork and magick guided and assisted by the Godhead in whichever aspect or aspects I address the Godhead at the time. There is also the fact that through the relationship with the Divine, good things can and do happen. Unfortunately, religion also presents the greatest dangers and impediments to effective spellwork and magick.
The three main religious impediments to effective spellwork and magick are (1) judgmental outsiders, (2) clerical elites, and (3) erroneous perceptions of deity. All three of these impediments are reasons for the individual to be his or her own Priest/Priestess, and for some of spellwork’s four basic components.
There are four basic components of spellwork: to know, to dare, to will, and to keep silence. They can and do act to oppose such impediments.
Judgmental outsiders are best dealt with by silence. If I am going to do spellwork, I should already know what I need to know in order to get the work done, and what I do is based upon my own relationship with the deities I choose to work with in this instance. To dare often goes against the “herd mentality” of some groups. I have noticed that in some churches, the opportunity to express prayer requests seems too often a time of passing judgment and planting seeds of gossip. I therefore will keep silence even to those closest to me unless I know there is full accord. Judgmental outsiders also can interfere with will by planting doubt. I therefore do my “heaviest” in secrecy, solitude, and perhaps another language besides English.
I personally doubt that the Godhead ever desired that Priests and Priestesses would form a clerical elite such as is found in some spiritual paths, most notably in mainstream Christianity. There are those who are dispensers of sacraments and guardians of knowledge, so that little can be accomplished but through them. And there are those who are guardians of knowledge and also Guides of the Only Correct Way, to the point that any debate is stopped with a sentence beginning with the words: “Pastor said…” Either way, a clerical elite seems to function like a schoolhouse bully, allowing only those he likes onto the playground.
It is true that eventually organization is necessary in most group endeavors, at least to some extent. It is also true that if a group of people come together on a regular basis for a specific purpose, leadership of some sort will emerge. But those necessities and eventualities are administrative, not spiritual or theological. People have a right to the knowledge and the right to use their own knowledge and experience in order to have and maintain their own relationship with the Divine.
Finally, there is the issue of erroneous perceptions of the deity, most often brought on by the other two problems already addressed. Those of us with sufficient exposure to certain forms of Christianity know all too well the implications of “God’s will, ” “God’s time, ” and “God’s higher plan, ” all of which give their deity an excuse to do nothing or allow pain to continue. And there are other examples, such as someone being told that a personal tragedy was because his god wanted it that way, the Priest who told someone that it would be wrong to pray that a spouse have a change of heart, and the “God must be punishing you for something” routine. Please note that while I am sure there are examples of this to be found in the spiritual paths of the Abrahamic roots, please be assured that I have heard all of these in discussions among Pagans, Wiccans and others. Would anyone follow a god or goddess who would fit such descriptions? I doubt it. Nobody needs to tell me what any god or goddess is like. What I want or need to know, I ask directly.
All of this brings us back to the definition of religion. As you can hopefully see, what I have described to this point is not compatible with many popular definitions of the term “religion.” Contrary to what some would like us to believe, religion has little to do with people gathered together in a designated building once a week for an hour or two. In fact, that kind of “religion” often gets in the way of establishing and maintaining a relationship with the Divine. Do I get to have a relationship with the Godhead, or must I deal with some mundane mortals who purport to have gotten somewhere ahead of me?
It is true that I am a High Priest, and it is true that I do share in the duties of presiding over a coven which has been legally incorporated into a church. It is my duty to insure that I do not get in the way of a covener’s own relationship with his or her deities. I don’t give them the answers, but I will show them where they might look for answers, and encourage them to try various answers so that they can see which works best for them. I have nothing that isn’t available to anyone who wants it, and I do know many who I believe have more than I do. And that brings up the issue of group/corporate worship which, as far as I can tell, works so long as there is sufficient accord. In fact, if there is enough accord, it can be exceptionally powerful and effective. It is not really necessary that everyone in a circle know precisely what everyone else is asking for, especially if everyone is serious about “Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.”
First comes my relationship with the Divine, in particular the deities which I wish to call upon. If I call upon a deity whom I have not called upon before, there does not seem to be a problem. This is true even when I call upon someone from a pantheon which I have never called upon before. That is because I am building on an existing relationship with the Divine as a whole. And that is the most important point. From my point of view, nothing is more important than establishing and maintaining a relationship with the Divine – that which I defined as religion. With that established, spellwork and magick will happen. I sometimes feel that many people miss out on a great deal when they don’t work on that relationship. For some, the situation can lead to frustration.
I am not about to claim that magick and spellwork are over-emphasized, but I do feel that more of a religious perspective can help. When magick and spellwork are taught, so often the context is almost that of recipes. While such an approach is valid to an extent, real Priesthood will often call for more than that. It is very good to know colors, correspondences, and rhymes. But many situations in the real world of Priestly work do not lend themselves to rigid compliance with a recipe. What if a particular spell you’re reading about calls for a particular herb that you just can’t get? What if a spell you want to do calls for a particular color of candle, only it’s late and the stores are all closed? And what about an even more common scenario: you have to deal with a need that isn’t addressed in any spell books?
If you wish to have a formal banquet, you probably will want to hire an actual chef, not one of the cooks from the local “quickieburger” franchise. The difference between the burger-flipper and the chef is that the chef knows the ingredients and how they work together so that a recipe is not entirely necessary. The chef will also know how to switch and swap ingredients in case something isn’t as available as it should be, or if a substitute is required.
Priests and Priestesses who are serious about their Priesthood will probably have challenges. It happens that way, even in the case of someone whose Priesthood did not begin with their own need or hurt. At least from the point of view of my own experience, it is in these challenges that the religious aspect comes to prominence. It is the ongoing relationship with the Divine which takes a Priestess or Priest beyond recipes and correspondence charts to the heart of what is happening in magick and spellwork.
As they say on the TV commercials, your own experience may vary. But as I see it, nothing helps magick and spellwork like a good relationship with the Divine.
Copyright: My own work.
Location: Collingdale, Pennsylvania
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