Defining Magic

Throughout the coming year, I will be posting a series on European magic, as I know it.

My conception of Magic (Note 1)

Magic is many things to different people. I see it as a method to participate in the Cosmos with the forces of the Holy Powers. I do this through my rituals, prayers, and devotions. My magic shapes my experiences with the non-human beings of the cosmos. I see that we are all a part of the ecology of the Universe.

My first working definition of magic was based on Gordon White’s ideas. Writing in “The Chaos Protocols,” he explains that magic is exploiting the reality that the magician finds themselves in. The magician works to change the probabilities for having something else to occur. Since reality has a question mark after it, the magician can work within the cracks, and change it to be more to their liking.

My favorite definition of magic is by Kurt Seligmann in his “The Mirror of Magic.” He writes “Magic operation is the application of the practical use of wisdom…acquired in contemplation of the inner self and of nature. Magic endeavors to explain every phenomenon in life, in nature, in the invisible… unity of the universe with its endless entirety.” This matches my Roman sensibilities of piety and my modern sensibilities of changing probabilities. John Michael Greer at his blog adds that magic is participating in the spiritual forces of the cosmos. This is how I see magic.

I am a Roman Polytheist. For me, magic is a part of my religion. Ritual, prayers, and devotions at my altar are magic that show deep piety towards the Gods. For Romans, rituals need to be done correctly to ensure the blessings of the Gods. However, Romans do practice all forms of magic including curse tablets (tabulae defixiones).

After I researched the various discussions of magic from magicians and non-magicians, I realized that magic is undefinable. Each author had their own concepts about magic, and did not agree with any of the others. According to Peter Maxwell-Stuart writing in the “Oxford Illustrated History Witchcraft and Magic,” the desire for a specific and separate definition for magic came in the nineteenth century. At that time, Western European intellectuals wanted a precise difference between the rational versus the irrational. As science became the way of relating to the world, the line of demarcation between that and magic became important. Maxwell-Stuart, himself, noted that the categories of magic, religion, and science remain fluid.

Official Roman ideas about magic is that if it benefits the community, it should be encouraged. Magic that benefits the individual is discouraged. The legacy from the ancient Romans led people to split magic into black and white in the Middle Ages. Black magic was working with demons or conjuring up the infernal powers and holding them in servitude to the magician.

Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the association of magic to mean “black” (i.e., bad) became common. “White” (i.e., good) was absorbed into the Monotheistic religions, and not regarded as magic. “Magic” was then defined as the control of or gaining power over the universe. Magic was regarded as bending reality to the will of the spellcaster.

How my concept of magic differs from a wizard of the Renaissance is nuanced. On one hand, Alchemists and Hermetics regarded their magic as a part of the cosmos. They saw it as “All is contained in All,” and that “All is One.” On the other hand, they sought through their works to unite with the Divine. These magicians surfed the great currents of wisdom that flowed into the Divine. I do not want to unite with my Gods, since I do not see myself as being Divine.

Notes:
Note 1. I do not add a “k” in my discussion of magic since there is no difference to me between “magic” and “magick.” In the writings of various books on magic, none of the magicians refer to “magick,” except in reference to Aleister Crowley.

Works Used:
Davis, Owen, ed. “The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft & Magic.” Oxford University Press: Oxford. 2017.
Greer, John Michael, “The Occult Book.” Sterling: NY. 2017.
“The Way of Participation: A Response to Paul Kingsnorth,” Web. 29 September, 2021. https://www.ecosophia.net/the-way-of-participation-a-response-to-paul-kingsnorth/.
Hutton, Ronald, “The Witch.” Yale University Press: New Haven. 2017.
Seligmann, Kurt, “The Mirror of Magic.” 1948. Inner Tradition: Rochester (VT).
White, Gordon, “The Chaos Protocols.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2016.

“True to the Earth” By Kadmus

“True to the Earth: Pagan Political Theology.” Gods & Radicals Press. 2018

Kadmus, a professor of philosophy, expounds on the difference between Polytheistic (Pagan) and Monotheistic metaphysics. After explaining the differences, he applies Polytheistic theology to modern Western politics. He concludes that capitalism came from Monotheism, which he considers to be nihilistic. To combat that, people need to embrace Polytheism, which is life-sustaining.

The major value of this book for me was how to think as a Polytheist. According to Kadmus, the invention of writing fundamentally changed how people think. Writing objectified words, which now exist without any anchor to reality. Therefore, abstract concepts such as “goodness” could come into being. Since writing detaches words from time and space, it allowed Monotheism to come into being.

In contrast, oral cultures are concrete and additive. They force the listener to be present with the speaker. Oral thought cements words to a particular time and place. Like verbs, oral thought follows “and also” to encourage things to accumulate more parts.

Kadmus writes, “This objectifying nature of the thought of a literate society shows up in many of our very worst modern characteristics. It also runs deeply throughout Monotheistic metaphysics. The Monotheistic God is most often an abstract goodness or perfection, a strange monster impossible to grasp in an active, concrete associative logic.” He continues, “If the One God were good, we could have this world; if it were evil, we could have this same world; if it didn’t exist at all, we could have this same world again. Thus, ‘goodness’ here is clearly a word without concrete content.”

Meanwhile, Polytheist metaphysics is committed to a complex plurality. This can be seen in the many names for the various Gods. For example, Marduk of Babylon has fifty names; each as important as the others. He is the Commander of the Legions of Wind Demons, Wielder of the Flaming Sword, Knower of the Secrets of the Earth, the Bringer of Rain, and more. Marduk can be all of these parts without being a totality

Monotheist thinking is reductive while Polytheistic thinking is productive. Monotheism reduces everything to One, while Polytheism promotes an abundant plurality. Kadmus writes “Reality within Pagan metaphysics is defined in terms of multiplicity and complexity, while Monotheism instead posits an ultimate oneness arrived at through reduction and simplification. For most versions of Monotheism, the oneness of the universe will derive from the power and oneness of its creator. If God is One, then so too are Truth and Reality. On the other hand, if the Gods are many, then so too are the truths of reality.”

Kadmus continues “When your metaphysics is based upon unity, reduction, totalizing, and Oneness, your approach to the world be shaped by it. Your approach to the world will focus on perfection, purity (Note 1), and the one narrow path to the only acceptable goal. In such a view, each thing has an essence that it either fulfills or betrays. Likewise, each thing has a purpose that it either serves or neglects. Oneness is purity, multiplicity is sin.”

As we try to re-establish Polytheistic metaphysics, these ideas are worth pondering. There is no One Truth but as many truths as there are Divine Beings. Polytheistic thinking celebrates fertility in all its forms, multiplying instead of reducing.

Notes:
Note 1. Purity in Polytheism can be seen in context such as dirty dishes that need to be washed. Christian purity involves purpose and order. In Monotheism, to be pure means to consist of only one thing.

Astrology and the Tarot: Wands

From the Universal Waite Deck, I drew the Six of Wands and the Ten of Wands. As Wands, they are of the element of fire. In the Tarot, this element indicates burning passions and drive. In Astrology, the Wands relate to the Fire Signs of Aries (cardinal), Leo (Fixed), and Sagittarius (mutable).

In “Tarot Beyond the Basics,” Anthony Louis says that in the Golden Dawn System, the number six reflects the middle Decan of Fixed Signs. This entails the “full expression of the season” which indicates a desire for stability. In contrast, the number ten refers to the “final expression of the season.” This number reflects the last Decan of the Mutable Signs, when one season ends to allow for the next one to begin.

The Six of Wands reflects the Second Decan of Leo, when this Sign is the strongest. Corrine Kenner in “Tarot and Astrology,” says that in the second Decan of Leo, “Jupiter puts Leo in the spotlight.” As the Greater Benefic, Jupiter gives this Decan great expansive energy. Therefore, it is appropriate that this card depicts a triumphal parade celebrating victory.

In contrast, the Ten of Wands has Saturn, the Greater Malefic, ruling the third Decan of Sagittarius. Although Jupiter is the ruler of Sagittarius, Saturn’s influence makes this Decan seem oppressive. The depiction of a man carrying a load of ten branches is apt for this card. The Third Decan of Sagittarius is usually the darkest time of year. In “Tarot Deciphered,” the authors T. Susan Chang and M. M. Meleen emphasize when the number ten comes in contact with fire, it tends to smother the fire. All of this adds to the intensity of the Ten of Wands.

For the reading of the Six of Wands and Ten of Wands together, the sentence is a stable victory that can become an overbearing challenge. What started as a success could turn into a burden. I interpreted this reading as “be careful what you wish for, it may become harder than you expected.”

Works Used:
Chang, T. Susan and M.M. Meleen, “Tarot Deciphered: Decoding Esoteric Symbolism in Modern Tarot.” 2021. Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN).
Hall, Judy, “The Astrology Bible.” 2005. Sterling: New York.
Kenner, Corrine, “Tarot and Astrology.” 2011. Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN).
Louis, Anthony, “Tarot: Beyond the Basics.” 2014. Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN).

Planetary Magic: After the Jupiter Spell

Deciding:

The concern I chose was to ask for Jupiter’s blessings to finish my studies at the Grey School of Wizardry in a timely manner. I want to receive my Journeyman’s Certificate, and then continue on to the next phase of my magical life. Therefore, I wanted to finish quickly.

I chose Jupiter the Greater Benefic since this Planetary Being governs wisdom. I wanted to be filled with Jupiter’s optimism. Finally, I wanted Jupiter’s blessings to do the Greater Good with my new magical knowledge.

Timing is important in gaining as much magical energy as possible. I chose the month of May of the Waxing Year, the Waxing Moon, Thursday at 10 AM. May and Thursday are the traditional times associated with Jupiter. To have maximum energy, I chose the Waxing Year and Moon. 10 AM on Thursday was suggested for one of the correspondences for Jupiter.

For Materials:

I had a purple candle with the Pentacle of Jupiter carved on it. Purple is the traditional color of Jupiter. Since Jupiter governs the elements of Fire and Air, a candle with his Pentacle carved on it is appropriate.

Other materials were amethyst and lapis lazuli, the stones of royalty, and associated with Jupiter. Also, oak and cedar are the traditional trees associated with Jupiter. I could gather them outside of my home, and therefore instill my personal energies into them.

Effectiveness:

The Planetary Correspondences that I used in my spell were effective. I could readily assemble the items such as the oak leaves and the crystals. After they became filled with Jupiter’s power, I carry the crystals with me as talismans. They fill me with the energy to continue with my studies. For example, I am finishing up with two classes, and have signed up for another class.

After the Jupiter spell was finished, I did have an adverse reaction. Because I was knocked out for two days, I could barely manage my normal life. I did ask several magicians whom I knew why this happened. They explained that since I have extremely keen psychic senses, doing the spell was like ringing a church bell in a closet. The psychic reverberations from Jupiter felt like a loud gong going off next to my head. Because of that I decided not to do any more spells that involve Planetary Correspondences.

Planetary Correspondences are outside of Roman magic nor are the Planets are a part of the Roman religion. As a Roman Polytheist, I differentiate between Jupiter the Planet and Iuppiter the God. Although Melita Denning and Osborn Phillips in “Planetary Magick” have corresponded various Deities with Planets, I do not. The Roman Gods that these authors list are often thought to be the same as Greek ones. If I do approach the Planets in magic, I would do as I would numina (divine spirits).

Works Used:
Denning, Melita and Osborne Phillips, “Planetary Magick.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 1989.
Dykes, Benjamin and Jayne Gibson, “Astrological Magic.” Cazimi Press: Minneapolis. 2012.
Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, “Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard.” New Page Books: Franklin Lakes (NJ). 2004.

Planetary Correspondences: A Ritual to Jupiter

Since I am a Roman Polytheist, the spell that I constructed followed a traditional Roman ritual. The items I used were from my Lararium (altar). For the correspondences, I repurposed a lapis lazuli and amethyst from my collection. I gathered oak leaves and cedar for offerings. I did purchase a purple candle and carved the Pentacle of Jupiter on it.

In Roman rituals, Janus (Ianus), the two-headed God, receives the first and last offering. He guards the Threshold between ordinary and Celestial space. Offerings are made to Salus and the Lars for blessings and protection. I made an offering to the Planetary Being Jupiter. (The Roman God of the same name is called Iuppiter.)

Jupiter Spell for Finishing My Studies in a Timely Manner

Materials:

Turibulum: Incense burner with incense.

Salinum: Salt Cellar with salt.

Gutus: Milk pitcher with milk.

Lucerna (The Sacred Fire): A purple candle with Jupiter Sigil on it.

Patera: Offering bowl.

Talismans for blessing: small lapis disk and small amethyst ball.

Offerings: incense for Jupiter, cedar and oak leaves gather from around the building.

At the Lararium (Altar)

Signal approach: ring bells

Light the incense in the Turibulum:

Salve Ianus Pater!

Two-headed God

Who watches the comings, who watches the goings.

You guard the Threshold

Keep this inside and that outside.

Salve Ianus Patulcius!

I make the first offering to You to ensure that the opening of the Celestial Doors will result in good.

Offering the salt:

Salve Salus Mater!

The Purifying Goddess,

The Giver of Salt,

The Keeper of Public Health,

I offer this salt to You.

Offering the milk:

Salvete Lars Familiaris!

Guardians of the Home,

Guardians of the Family,

I offer this milk to You.

At the Lucerna, lighting the Jupiter Candle.

Salve Jupiter, Upholder of the Law.

Magnificence of Sovereignty

I offer this fire to You

Please attend and bless my rite.

Peaceful Jupiter fill the rite with your generosity.

Ritual Workings:

I sing the praises of

The Source of the Forces of Life,

The Disposer of True Wisdom,

The Great Benefic,

Most Magnificent and Bounteous.

I sing of Jupiter, the Upholder of the Law

Praise and Honor to You.

I offer this incense for your blessings on my endeavors. I offer this cedar and oak in your name. I wish to finish my Grey School of Wizardry studies in a timely manner. I will be at Level Seven in the next three months. Let me not tarry but continue onwards. Bless my efforts to graduate and become a Journeyman Wizard in two years.

Fill these talismans with your blessings that I may carry them with me to remind me of your wisdom. I thank You, Most Exalted Jupiter.

Unwinding the rite:

I thank you, Royal Wielder of the Scepter. Most Sovereign Jupiter.

(Blow out candle.)

I thank you Lars Familiars, Watchers of my home and family.

(Cork the milk bottle.)

I thank You, Salus Mater, Protector of Public Health

(Cover the salt cellar.)

The last offering is for You, Ianus Clusivus for guarding the Threshold. I thank You to ensure that the closing of the Celestial Doors will result in good.

(Offer incense.)

Ring bells to signal the end.