Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No, Not Just Ceremonialists

Awhile back we got into a discussion about how widely used effective magick really is. In the course of that discussion a number of readers got the idea that I was implying only people who use magick the way I do are actually using magick, which couldn't be further from the truth. Lots of people from many different religious traditions use magick, whether they refer to it as prayer or spellwork. I stand by the position I took in that discussion, that while the majority of people may attempt to make use of magick in some form only a small subset of that group can do so in a particularly effective manner.

Just to make sure there are no misunderstandings this time, let me be clear that in no way do I think that this "effective" subgroup is composed only of ceremonialists or pagans. I've met plenty of witches and ceremonialists who cast lousy spells, and I've also met esoteric Christians who really can work wonders with heartfelt prayer. The following two news stories show the diversity of magical practice around the world, and only time will tell if these attempts to make use of magical methods will prove effective.

This first story from Switzerland has an interesting history. In the seventeenth century the longest glacier in Europe caused a lake to flood into the villages of Fieschertal and Fiesch. The inhabitants of those two towns made a formal vow that they would pray against the glacier's expansion.

In 1678, the inhabitants of the Alpine villages of Fieschertal and Fiesch made a formal vow to live virtuously and to pray against the growth of the Aletsch glacier, Europe's longest, which had caused a lake to flood into their homes.

To reinforce their prayers, they started holding an annual procession in 1862, when the glacier reached its longest during the mini-Ice Age Europe suffered in the mid-19th century.

However, in the modern age of climate change those prayers appear to be working too well. Swiss glaciers have shrunk at the rate of 12% over the last decade, and the villagers are seeking an audience with the Pope so that they can receive his approval to change their vow so that they can instead pray against the glacier's retreat.

But the villages now want to seek permission from Pope Benedict to change their vow as the glacier is melting fast due to climate change and have requested an audience with him.

"The residents of Fiesch and Fischertal hope that this will happen in September or October and are optimistic that the Holy Father will decide in their favor as he has repeatedly spoken out about climate change," they said in a statement.

Roman Catholics use all sorts of magical practices, many involving veneration of specific saints. However, the top-down structure of the church in which everything needs to be approved by the hierarchy has always struck me as inflexible and impractical. Fortunately you don't have to go through a process like this every time you call upon a saint for help or guidance.

This second story from Israel involves a group of Kabbalistic rabbis determined to stop the swine flu epidemic by combining ancient magical methods with modern technology. In ancient times they would have walked around the city, but this time they decided to fly over it.

The rabbis prayed and blew seven times into ceremonial ram's horns known as shofars as they flew over Israel on Monday, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported.

"The aim of this operation is to stop this epidemic so that people don't die any more. Following our prayers, we are certain the danger is now over," Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri told the paper.

Israel has recorded five deaths from swine flu, while about 2,000 people are infected by the (A)H1N1 virus.

Traditional Jewish Kabbalah tends to be a secretive school that doesn't make it into the news very often, so it's interesting to hear about them taking action along these lines. While swine flu hasn't proved to be a particularly dangerous epidemic statistically speaking, let's hope that there will be no more deaths. This provides us with a good benchmark to evalute the magical power resulting from this ritual. If there are indeed no more deaths from swine flu in Jerusalem that will be a strong testament to the effectiveness of these practitioners and their magical school. So we'll be watching.

Both of these stories highlight the use of magick in Christianity and Judaism, though probably neither group involved would define their actions as such. Whether or not these operations succeed they still shed some light on the fact that magick is an integral part of human religious history across many traditions, and that it's not just ceremonialists who are out there practicing the art.

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Unknown said...

But, when you get down to the specifics of ritual, wouldn't each magick/religious working be 'ceremonial'? With the christian example, all they did was pray. No tools, just continuous praying. With the jewish one, they used tools. Change the number of tools and who you call/pray to and it's a ceremony. Even with taoism, buddhism, etc. spirits are called.

The only real place you wouldn't have a 'ceremony' in the normal sense would be when you use psychic powers (and not the overall magickal faculties) and technically, people that don't do ceremonies can have 'rituals' they do to help them in getting in the right mindset.

Scott Stenwick said...

That's true - technically just about any magical technique can fall under the general descriptor of "ceremonial" if it follows some sort of fixed procedure. In the article, though, I was using the term more specifically to refer to Western ceremonial magick along the lines of Golden Dawn, Thelemic, and/or European grimoire-based practices.

ChandraNova said...

If all creation manifests its preferred environment (mass consensus and conservation of energy etc notwithstanding) then that 1. accounts for the utterly bizarre way that every creature in the natural world has its exactly perfect environment, often in defiance of Occam's razor - at least, until the mass dream changes and they sudenly don't (dinosaurs etc) and 2. that we visualise to achieve things from the ameoba upwards.

Meaning not so much that even people who don't consider themselves magickal practitioners are sometimes doing magickal acts without being aware, but rather that we are ALL physically and spiritually incapable of not making intentions, and casting "spells."

I'm convinced that's why it's impossible to "prove" a psychic or occult action when really committed skeptics are present - they're too busy wishing/manifesting the act into nothingness. Not a new idea, but relevant to my point.

So I believe that we inherited that visualise > create ability from our earliest animal ancestors, and that would explain why the occult, which superficially seems so very human and neo-cortex (abstract etc) so often draws on animal forms and archetypes, and why so many deities and spirits present in partial or total animal form.

Maybe the mammals dreamed beter than the dinos, and suddenly wham-bam - the meeces inherited the earth? Just a thought, anyway, I'm open minded on that one.

The cat sitting staring at you wanting her dinner is visualising you doing it, it's just that your "not dinner time yet" mojo is stronger than her "i can haz cheezburger" intention... ;)