Articles/Essays From Pagans
August 17th. 2014 ...
To Know, to Will, to Dare...
On Grief: Beacons of Light in the Shadows
August 10th. 2014 ...
As a Pagan, How Do I Represent My Path?
The Power of the Gorgon
August 3rd. 2014 ...
Are You a Natural Witch?
You Have to Believe We Are Magic...
July 27th. 2014 ...
Did I Just Draw Down the Moon?
Astrological Ages and the Great Astrological End-Time Cycle
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July 20th. 2014 ...
Being an Underage Wiccan
Greed, Power, Witches, and the Inquisition
Malleus Maleficarum - The Hammer of the Witches
Thoughts on Ghost Hunting
July 13th. 2014 ...
A World Of Witchcraft: Belief Is Only The Beginning...
From Christian to Pagan (Part III)
My Wiccan Ways...
July 6th. 2014 ...
Keys: Opening the Portals into Other Worlds
The Lore of the Door
Leaves of Love
June 29th. 2014 ...
What Does the Bible Say About Witches and Pagans?
Are You My Familiar ?
Invocations of the God and Goddess
Results Magic and the Moral Compass
Everything's Alright, Yes: Mary Magdalene
June 22nd. 2014 ...
Witchcraft vs. Religion
Christianity and Paganism: Why All Of the Fighting?
June 15th. 2014 ...
Becoming Your Own Wise One
Canine Familiars: Role of the Alpha
June 8th. 2014 ...
Moral Relativism and Wicca
Paganism in Cebu, Philippines
June 1st. 2014 ...
Rediscovering My Pagan Faith
13 Keys: The Wisdom of Chokmah
May 25th. 2014 ...
Some Differences Between Priestesses and Witches: Duties and Trials
Awakening to our Celestial Nature (A Free 8-Day Course)
How to Work With Your Muse
10 Things I Love about my Sacred Work as a Public Witch
May 18th. 2014 ...
Finding the God (From Christian to Pagan -Part II)
The Medea Within Us All
Visits from the Departed
May 11th. 2014 ...
Breaking the Law of Return
Karma and Sin
Mental and Emotional Balance- I CAN Have it!
The Sin Concept
May 4th. 2014 ...
When to Let Go...When to Hold On
Goddessy: Sorceress Speaks On Beauty
Embracing my Inner Goddess through Belly Dance
April 27th. 2014 ...
Mental Illness in the Pagan Community
World Crisis: Awaken Witches and Take Action
Being Pagan, Being Bipolar
"Earth Day" Is A Pagan Conspiracy!
April 20th. 2014 ...
Six Rules for Safer Pagan Sex: A Guide
Safety: Let's Shift Our Focus
Morality and Controversy in the Craft
A Pagan Perspective on Easter
The Star Child
April 13th. 2014 ...
Magick and Consequences: My Experience with Sigils
Being a Worrisome Witch
Don't Talk Yourself Out of Trying Something New!
What to Do When the Spell/Ritual Flops
April 6th. 2014 ...
The Elements and the Quarters
Dark Moon Scry: Aries 2014
How the Wheel of the Year Works “Down Under”
13 Keys: The Understanding of Binah
March 30th. 2014 ...
Manifesting the Dream: On Religious Organizations, Pagan Abbeys and our Order
True Meaning of Community
Thoughts on Unverified Personal Gnosis
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March 23rd. 2014 ...
Spirituality and Social Change
The First Step to Anywhere!
March 16th. 2014 ...
From Christian to Pagan (Part I)
Nature And The Celtic Tree Calendar
The Teeth in the Darkness
March 9th. 2014 ...
Healing the Witch Within
Discovering Wicca as a Young Child
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Magic, Prayer and Props: Symbols of Receptivity and Creativity
Article ID: 11808
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Alison Leigh Lilly
Posted: July 29th. 2007
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"Ritual is poetry in the realm of acts." -- Ross Nichols, founder of OBOD
Is magic simply "prayer with props, " or is it something more? It seems to me that there is a fundamental difference between "prayer" and "magic." Let's start by looking first at the common definitions of these words:
- A reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship.
- The act of making a reverent petition to God, a god, or another object of worship.
- An act of communion with God, a god, or another object of worship, such as in devotion, confession, praise, or thanksgiving.
- A specially worded form used to address God, a god, or another object of worship.
- The art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural.
- The practice of using charms, spells, or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or control events in nature.
- The charms, spells, and rituals so used.
I've quoted only the first and most relevant definitions for each word, though these few uses listed above should give us a general idea to start. Even though the definitions of "prayer" and "magic" reach far beyond these summary definitions, these simplest explanations of each word seem to have little in common.
"Prayer" is a kind of petition or, more generally, a communion or communication with deity; "magic, " on the other hand, has to do with personal will and gaining control over reality.
Of course, these definitions are limited. Many Christians would be insulted to think of prayer as merely groveling at the feet of God, begging for favors like weak but selfish children. Likewise, many Witches and Pagans would object that magic is much less about exerting control over the external world, and much more concerned with working in harmony with the energies and forces that unite the individual with the rest of reality.
Furthermore, both prayer and magic are more generally directed at change--either through the intervention of deity, or by personal will. If we take the broader understanding of "prayer" and "magic" into consideration, we might define prayer as "communion with deity through thought and word, aimed at making room for Divine to act in one's life;" and magic as "prayer--that is, communion with the Divine, aimed at making room for its activity--through the use of physical tools and ritual actions in addition to thought and word."
While some might be content with these definitions, they're not enough for me. I want to dig more deeply into the subtleties and nuances of each word.
Prayer: To me, prayer is above all communion and communication with the Divine. This can take the form of centering prayer or meditation, or it can be something we do everyday, like washing dishes or walking the dog. It is a time to "talk" to deity, yes, but above all it is a time to listen. Prayer is ideally a way of paying attention to that "still small voice."
Often when we pray out loud and spontaneously out of great distress or need, we articulate fears and anxieties we may not even know about consciously. We don't need to tell Spirit what it already knows, but the real benefit of prayer is to listen to ourselves, to find out what we are really asking for and begin to consider if that is what we really need or want.
I often find myself saying things during prayer I would never have verbalized otherwise. Other times, I simply break down into overwhelmed murmurs of "I love You so much!" While I feel a bit silly, I'm also reassured because I can say so and mean it.
Prayer is a way of bringing oneself into a better awareness of and connection to the Divine. Anything can be prayer--it can be verbalized or silent, motionless or a kind of dancing, or even work itself.
When I write poetry, I am praying.
When I laugh, I am praying.
When I eat, I am praying.
Each of these activities reminds me of my connection with the Divine, and reminds me to listen, to pay attention.
Magic: Magic goes a step further. Prayer is largely passive, focusing on listening and paying attention (stilling ourselves and our clamoring desires long enough to make room for Spirit's reply) . But magic is active.
The focus on control and personal will, although somewhat shallow and misdirected, does give us some insight. After all, is our goal as spiritual beings to deny our free will and become mindless robots of Spirit? Or do we accept free will as a gift and exercise it with love and wisdom, bringing personal will into harmony with Divine will?
Do we see Spirit as a cult-leader; or that which wants participation, not subordination?
Magic is how we participate. It is how we manifest the communion of prayer in the world so that it can change us and change others. Prayer is necessary for magic--we must communicate with the Divine and pay attention in order to be in harmony with it.
When we act in harmony, we can be creative and free, without being arrogant or cut-off from Spirit.
While magic in general might be the practice of exerting personal will arbitrarily on the world, sacred magic, informed by prayer (communion and listening), is an act of creation in harmony with Spirit.
What do I mean? I'll give you an example. When I free-write a rough draft of a poem, I am praying--I quiet myself down and listen to what that Divine voice within me articulates spontaneously. But, when I return to the poem, revise it, craft it into a work of art that does something and changes the reader and the world, I am performing magic. Writing is the best example of how magic does not need "tools" or "props."
Magic is about creation and change, not about what tools you use. A great work of poetry changes the world, and the writer knows that the piece comes not from her, but through her--it has her "flavor", but its ultimate source is something greater.
Similarly, other forms of magic change the world, and the individual practitioner, through creative acts. Sacred magic is essentially creative--it brings something new into being and, thus, changes the world. It expresses the Divine Unity in a new, particular and unique way.
Prayer reminds us of our source; magic is the active participation in the paradox that that source is expressed through particulars. Prayer is the necessary foundation of magic, and magic is the natural fruit of prayer. They have many of the same goals, but they are different.
To call magic simply "prayer with props" would be to ignore the active, creative side of our own participation in the Divine. The results of magic are, essentially, miracles. But all miracles require human participation--we plunge our staffs into the sea, we anoint the sick with oil, we bless the shared meal.
We listen, we pray, we contemplate--and then, we act, we create, we participate.
Originally posted in Pulse Like Water, March 15, 2005
Copyright: (c) 2007 Alison Shaffer (originally posted in rough draft form to her Pulse Like Water blog, March 15, 2005)
Alison Leigh Lilly
Location: Seattle, Washington
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Bio: A young woman exploring the meandering path of Druidry through meditation, prayer, ritual, magic, poetry, philosophy and "wild wisdom."
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