Monday, February 27, 2012

Magickal Monday’s: What is Magick

What is Magick?
Mention magic to most people and they immediately start thinking about Wicked Witches, Wizards and Sorcerers conjuring up evil sounding spells and poisons from boiling bubbling cauldrons sat on blazing smoking fires.  Others imagine comedians on stage with funny pointy hats and black and white wands.  Still others think of Illusionists making people disappear then re-appear from boxes and other contrived stage props. 
Since time immemorial magic has been used in witchcraft, and many myths and evil associations have been attributed to its use.  Here I shall concentrate on magic and how it is perceived by witches of today.  Not everybody agrees and there are many theories on the subject, so this is my theory, based on my opinion and my experiences.  At the end of the day you shall have to form your own. 
So what is magic really?  (Or “magick” as those in the craft would term it).  How, what, where and when should it be used?  These are the questions I aim to answer here.  
First let us destroy the myths of wizards throwing around lightning bolts doing battle with evil sorcerers, and all other such nonsense’s.  Magick is a force utilizing power, wisdom and knowledge.  It is both more and less powerful than the ignorant can suppose.  Magick can only be used to change the changeable, for instance - it can be used to cure a sickness but not to replace a lost limb.  Magick is not a power to be used in place of our other powers, meaning those of our physical, mental or emotional abilities.  Nor is it a crutch for the weak or an ego-boost for the inadequate.  Magick is an art and skill unto itself.  It needs to be learned then trained to develop, and that takes time and patience. 
If we believe that everything and all originate from the same source, then the ability for using magick must be retained within us all.  Magick then is a forgotten art passed down through eons of reincarnations and it resides inside us all.  Therefore magick is a skill that needs to be re-learned and trained if it's to be used well, effectively and wisely.      
In modern days magick is used not only in ritual ceremonies, but also on a daily bases during spiritual communication with the Goddess and God.  It is used daily for healing purposes and perhaps more frequently for personal purposes like reducing negativity, protection and improving the self.  It can also be used for many other purposes as determined by the individual while bearing in mind “The three fold law”.
The Wiccan Rede
"An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"
As long as your actions do not harm anyone, you're free to do what you want. Issues such as sexual orientation are strictly personal and no one else's business. Likewise, Wicca imposes no requirements or taboos on things such as foods or clothing.
"Harm", however, includes much more than physical violence. It involves emotional abuse, gossip, slander, and sexual predation, among other things. It also includes harm against oneself.
Note that the Rede does not ban harmful actions. Such a code would be unrealistic, not to mention ridiculous. Self-defense, for example, does harm one's attacker, but we'd never suggest you just take the beating. The Rede merely states a number of circumstances (those that harm none) which can be done with impunity.
For actions that do harm, we have...
The Law of ReturnSimply put, the Law of Return states that all actions have repercussions. There are many versions of the Law of Return. I, personally, believe in a one-to-one correspondence in line with Newton's law that "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction". Far more popular, however, is what is commonly referred to as the Threefold Law, often phrased as:
Ever Mind The Rule Of Three
Three Times Your Acts Return To Thee
This Lesson Well, Thou Must Learn
Thou Only Gets What Thee Dost Earn
Those who do good are done well by others, while evil seeds more evil. The Law of Return holds us responsible for our own actions, and reminds us that nothing is free. It is also a lesson in moderation. To return to the self-defense example: you have the right to return what was done to you in order to defend yourself, employing as much force as necessary to keep yourself safe. You do not, however, have the right to continue bashing the guy's head in with a pipe when he's already unconscious.
Do we have commandments?No. We find a rigid list of right and wrongs to not be realistic or useful. I've spent half of my life hearing arguments over what "Thou shall not kill" is supposed to mean. Does it include self-defense? War? Abortion? Animals for food? What about plants for food? There are also plenty of crimes that the 10 Commandments don’t cover, and no matter how many commandments you write, you will never cover every situation.
Instead, we attempt to create a framework in which individual situations can be examined and judged, based upon the potential for harm. The result is a religion whose followers' ethics do in fact generally fall in line with those of the rest of society.
Various Traditions and individuals may brandish their own personal codes, but none of them are universal or to be taken as all-inclusive. One popular example is Scott Cunningham's 13 Goals of a Witch.
The Law of Return
Also known as the "Threefold Law" or the "Rule of Three"
There are many variations of the phrasing of the Threefold Law, but it generally goes something like:
Ever Mind The Rule Of Three
Three Times Your Acts Return To Thee
This Lesson Well, Thou Must Learn
Thou Only Gets What Thee Dost Earn
When you take a resource, even with good intentions, there will be repercussions. The petty cash box will soon be empty if one doesn't occasionally put money into it as well as take it out. Actions need to be balanced, or else things can get quite out of control to a degree many times over that of the original issue.
In other words, there's no such thing as a free lunch.
Other phrasings emphasize completely separate issues, which author Phyllis Curott has recently taken to calling the Boomerang Whammy Rule:2
Mind the Threefold Law you should,
Three times bad and three times good.
The above version was taken directly from the Rede of the Wicca, a piece of work that I do believe is required reading for Wiccans or at least is interesting to investigate. Or, for an even more extreme version:
Ensure that your actions are honorable,
for all that you do shall return to you, threefold, good or bane.
People attempt to pass this phrasing off as a moral code, which it is not. The Threefold Law is a statement of belief in the ways of the universe. It does not teach us what is "bad" or "good", only that we shall receive three times whatever we give. The only reason it offers for being good is to receive reward and to escape punishment. That is not morality.
The world does not work as simply as these phrases make it sound. If it did we'd all be donating to charity like mad and reaping the rewards by the handful. The idea of things returning threefold is unnatural. According to the Law of Ecology:
  1. Everything is connected to everything else
  2. Everything must go somewhere
  3. Nature knows best
  4. There is no such thing as a free lunch
But it is true that harm tends to beget harm, and it is true that one good turns deserves another: people remember a person's charity and are more likely to aid them in return.
Let's also remember one of Newton's laws as another lesson from nature: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. "Opposite" does not mean that you receive bad for every good. It means what gets put out comes back. For instance, if you push upon a wall, the wall is actually pushing back with an equal amount of force - if it did not, it would fall over. That's straight from physics class.
However, what counts as "equal" is not always obvious. Two people trying for identical outcomes might have to exert tremendously different amount of effort to achieve their goals, depending on other factors involved. For instance, a ritual asking for a healthy mother gives birth to a healthy child is fairly straightforward, while one asking for a cocaine-addicted mother to give birth to a healthy child is going to take considerably greater effort, even though the desired result (a healthy child) is the same. Putting out a little will gain you a little - which might be all that it needed in the first case, but is far less likely to be sufficient in the second case. You get what you give.
"The Threefold Rule follows the old laws of karma"
Ignoring the "threefold" bit, this statement is actually true. The problem is that most Westerners do not understand what karma actually is. The term karma is Sanskrit and the concept it represents has remained central to Hindus and Buddhists for thousands of years. Moreover, the common understanding of the Threefold Law - one of punishment and reward - likewise has nothing in common with Eastern karmic beliefs.
The Sanskrit word karma really refers to consequences of actions, and so in its proper context, it actually fits fairly well with the Law of Return. The confusion comes from the strong connections between concepts of karma and reincarnation within the Eastern caste system. Depending on one's karma, a person is reborn higher or lower within the hierarchy of castes. However, this is not a system of rewards and punishments. It is a system of lesson learning, preparation, and purity. Those who do not learn the lessons of this life return at the same level. Those who defile themselves will not rise and may return even lower, although there are a number of ways to defile one ’s self, such as eating impure foods and other actions that we would certainly not describe as evil. Such people's fate is not a punishment, however. Caste is what you are in essence. To be born into a lower or higher caste simply reflects what one has already done to oneself. All of this, however, is merely one expression of karma. The consequences of your actions are reflected in this life as much as in the next, and so it also is in the Law of Return.
Witches Rede of ChivalryEd Fitch and Janine ReneeMagical Rites from the Crystal Well, 1987, Llewellyn Publications.
Insofar as the Craft of the Wise is the most ancient and most honorable creed of humankind, it behooves all who are Witches to act in ways that give respect to the Old Gods, to their sisters and brothers of the Craft, and to themselves.
Therefore, be it noted that:
  • Chivalry is a high code of honor which is of most ancient Pagan origin, and must be lived by all who follow the old ways.
  • It must be kenned that thoughts and intent put forth on this Middle Earth will wax strong in other worlds beyond and return...bringing into creation, on this world, that which had been sent forth. Thus one should exercise discipline, for "as ye plant, so shall ye harvest."
  • It is only by preparing our minds to be as Gods that we can ultimately attain godhead.
  • "This above thine own self be true..."
  • A Witch's word must have the validity of a signed and witnessed oath. Thus, give thy word sparingly, but adhere to it like iron.
  • Refrain from speaking ill of others, for not all truths of the matter may be known.
  • Pass not unverified words about another, for hearsay is, in large part, a thing of falsehoods.
  • Be thou honest with others, and have them know that honesty is likewise expected of them.
  • The fury of the moment plays folly with the truth; to keep one's head is a virtue.
  • Contemplate always the consequences of thine acts upon others. Strive not to do harm.
  • Diverse covens may well have diverse views of love between members and with others. When a coven, clan, or grove is visited or joined, one should discern quietly their practices, and abide thereby.
  • Dignity, a gracious manner, and a good humor are much to be admired.
  • As a Witch, thou has power, and thy powers wax strongly as wisdom increases. Therefore, exercise discretion in the use thereof.
  • Courage and honor endure forever. Their echoes remain when the mountains have crumbled to dust.
  • Pledge friendship and fealty to those who so warrant. Strengthen others of the Brethren and they shall strengthen thee.
  • Thou shalt not reveal the secrets of another Witch or Coven. Others have labored long and hard for them, and cherish them as treasures.
  • Though there may be differences among those of the Old Ways, those who are once-born must see nothing, and must hear nothing.
  • Those who follow the mysteries should be above reproach in the eyes of the world.
  • The laws of the land should be obeyed whenever possible and within reason, for in the main they have been chosen with wisdom.
  • Have pride in thyself and seek perfection in body and in mind. For the Lady has said, "How canst thou honor another unless thou give honor to thyself first?"
  • Those who seek the Mysteries should consider themselves the select of the Gods, for it is they would lead the race of humankind to the highest of thrones and beyond the very stars.

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