Secrets of Magic in Modern Paganism Revealed
Magic is one of the aspects that can be found in many of the groups that are part of the movement known collectively as Modern Paganism. According to practitioners of magic within the movements of Modern Paganism, magic is something real, and not merely a figment of one’s imagination. Nevertheless, there is no ‘one size fits all’ definition of what magic is. Several different views of magic are available, and it is up to a practitioner to decide which of these best suits him / her.
Representation of a Pagan ritual. Source: Paul Stevenson/ CC BY 2.0
Popular Definitions of Magic in Modern Paganism
One of the most common ways of understanding Modern Pagan magic is that it is the ‘Art of Causation’. Aleister Crowley, the founder of Thelema, famously defined magic as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will”. According to this view, magic is an innate human ability that everyone is born with. In order to tap into this supernatural force, one needs to learn it and then put it into practice. By using magic, a practitioner is making a connection with the energies of nature, and by doing so, is able to cause changes in the material world.
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Aleister Crowley. (Public Domain) Crowley’s definition of magic influenced one of the most common ways of understanding Modern Pagan magic - the ‘Art of Causation’.
Another definition of magic in Modern Paganism is provided by Dion Fortune, a co-founder of the Fraternity of the Inner Light. Fortune’s perception of magic is an adaptation from the one provided by Crowley. Instead of causing changes in the material world, Fortune advocated the use of magic to bring about change within the self. By causing internal change to occur, a practitioner of magic would in turn be able to effect change on the external world. It has been pointed out that this view perceives magic as a form of psychology. The difference between magic and psychology, however, is that the former draws energy from nature and the supernatural, whilst the latter does not.
‘The Magic Circle’ by John William Waterhouse. ( Public Domain ) Many Modern Pagans believe in magic.
Yet another understanding of magic is that it is a ‘re-enchanting’ of the world. To put it in other words, magic may be used by a practitioner to view the nature of existence from a different perspective. In other words, magic can be used to discover / re-discover the subtle / hidden connections that exist within the self, in the natural world, and between human beings and the natural world. Therefore, magic in this sense is a means of connecting with the self, with others, and with the natural world.
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Pagan handfasting ceremony at Avebury (Beltane 2005). (Solar/ CC BY SA 2.0 )
Some Ways Modern Pagans Can Perform Magic
Modern Pagan magic may be performed in a number of ways. The best known of these is perhaps the casting of spells. In Wicca, for example, the casting of spells may involve the use of incantations, amulets, talismans, as well as a variety of other actions or objects. Magic spells function by concentrating and channeling one’s own spiritual energy. This energy would then move larger energy currents in the area where a practitioner wishes to see change, thus bringing about the desired change. As mentioned previously, Modern Pagans believe that magic is an innate ability that all human beings have. Therefore, spells can be cast by anyone, provided that he / she learns how to harness this energy, and put what they have learned into practice.
A Pagan Ostara Altar, 2010. ( Wilhelmine)
There are certain rules / ethics in Modern Paganism when it comes to the use of magic. One of the best known of these is the Wiccan Law / Rede, one of the most common forms being “An it harm none, do what ye will”. This means that magic should not be used to harm anyone, whether intentionally, or unintentionally. Other ethical considerations that a magic practitioner may have in mind could include the possibility that a spell may influence another’s freedom of choice, or if it is meant to satisfy one’s personal ego (both of which ought to be avoided).
Top image: A modern Pagan Wiccan altar set up. Source: Public Domain
By Wu Mingren
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