Thinking About: Magic and its Role in Modern Paganism
Last night at our local moot we discussed ‘magic and its role in modern Paganism’. It was a fascinating night and once again it has caused me to ponder a change I’ve seen over the years. When I first became aware of my path Wicca was the dominant tradition and so it’s no surprise that the focus of discussion was on magic – its use, its ethics, its practical effectiveness, and its study.
Magic was one of the things that brought me to this path. My interest as a teenager was with the occult, and magic played a strong role within that. The kind of magic I studied was deeply ceremonial, working with the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The magic I encountered in Wicca was more earthy, as it was based not so much on the ceremonial, but rather came from folklore.
But over the years, maybe because of the path I chose, or the people I socialise with, I’ve noticed the topic of magic being discussed less and less. As time has moved on so has my attention. From changing my life through active magical work, towards a more contemplative Journey. So it was good to go back and reassess my relationship with magic, and by doing so that relationship became a little clearer again with a few revelations.
1) I no longer believe in the law of three-fold return – this was something that was driven into me back in the day. That our actions in the world will return to us ‘three-fold’. So if we are good that energy will return tripled, but if we work negative magic then that negativity will also return to us three-fold. I take my teachings from nature, and there is no other part of nature where that rule applies. In science we hear that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It doesn’t say that for every action there is a three-fold reaction. I realise that there is a cost to working magic, but I find it odd that many peoples’ default is that this cost will be a negative one. I wonder if the law of three-fold return might just be another way of controlling people. I think I’m done with it as a concept.
2) I believe that Magic is just another skill – to me magic is energy. It is like gravity, radio waves and x rays, the only difference is that scientists haven’t yet created a machine that can see and measure it, but to me it is as natural as the air we breathe. Learning to tune into that energy and direct it is a skill we can learn. Karate is a skill we can learn, driving is a skill we can learn, our A levels are qualifications we get through learning. If someone has spent time studying magic and they then use that magic to get a job, is that wrong? Some would say they have denied another from that job by using their magical skills. That’s true. There might have been a better candidate who lost out. The thing is, getting the job is just the first step. If they then prove themselves useless at the job, magic or no magic, they will lose it. The magic was a waste of time. The other more capable candidate may end up with the job anyway. With the use of magic it is the small print that needs to be thoroughly studied and understood.
3) Is it really wrong to use Magic in self defence? – Some would say it’s using magic in a negative way. But is it really? If someone hurts you, or your family, and you are a magician, is it wrong to use that skill in defence? Is karma a one-way street? If someone uses negative energy towards me by mugging me, and if the universe has the rule that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction by using my magical skill to return that negative energy to the mugger, am I not just helping their own karma return to them? I’m not sure to be honest, but this occurred to me last night during the discussions, and I need to think about this some more.
Thinking about and re-evaluating my relationship with areas of my path is something I love to do. It makes things clear if the water has been muddied by other peoples’ opinions. But it would be interesting to read your opinions, so do leave a comment if you feel moved to do so.