Does magic still have a role in Paganism?

Posted on March 28, 2011
Filed Under Magic, occult culture | 4 Comments

I’ve never really identified myself as a Pagan. I think of myself as an occultist, when it comes to my spirituality, and I’d have to say that what primarily defines my spirituality is my practice of magic. To my perspective and experience with Pagans, there’s been a tendency to treat magic as a religious practice. It’s not a primary concern, and as such it hasn’t surprised me when I see blog entries such as this one, which shows the deepening awareness that some pagans are turning away from magic.

I think the reason for that is due to a desire to be perceived as a legitimate religion, and because magic always carries a stigma with it, some pagans want to divest themselves of it, and embrace more traditional religious trappings. Then too, the traditionalism that grips a lot of Pagan practices strikes me as similar to the fundamentalism that I’ve encountered in Christianity. I’ve encountered pagan fundamentalism at various times and usually it’s been a reaction to magical practices that didn’t toe the traditional line of thought and inquiry.

It seems to me there is a definite subcultural difference between occultists and pagans, as it applies to magic’s place in spirituality, and for that matter experimentation with magic. When there is drive by some pagans to remove magic altogether from the equation, it seems like their also taking an essential part of Paganism out as well. But then again, are they really if magic is more of a secondary concern in paganism?

I couldn’t imagine a life without magic or magical practices. For me, my spirituality is my magical practice, with all that entails. I’ve always identified as a magician and an occultist as opposed to a pagan, because of my own negative experiences with pagans. While the majority of experiences have actually been good, the experiences where pagans tried to naysay my approach and practice of magic have been experiences that demonstrated that what’s really important is not the label so much as the practice, but that people will use your practice to label you and if they don’t like what they see, they will attack it.

Does magic still have a role in paganism? It’s up to the pagans who practice it to make a case for it. I hope they do, because I think getting rid of magic is getting rid of part of what has made different pagan traditions what they are.

Comments

4 comments
Savitri
Savitri

Having traveled through many tribes and experienced for myself what was there, I am beginning to come to a conclusion that all titles that have been previously created have come to be perverted, or are decaying from their initial intention. If group titles can be perverted because of the vast differences in personal perception, I am considering what might be a better way to describe what I do or who I am. Do we have to have the main stream accept our practices, or do we do better to do works and magick to alter perception and attempt to eventually heal the Patriarchal demise of labeling. Language and its particular brand of 'spelling' is what I am getting at. Having read your take on language in Inner Alchemy last night, I thought this mention might be an beneficial add to what you are getting at here. I like standing with Buckmister Fuller in that one doesn't fight an old model to change it, but creates a new one.

I'm all for creating new systems and models...which is why I've gone down the route I'm going.

Naya Aerodiode
Naya Aerodiode

I've watched magic trickle out of paganism with anger and regret over the past two decades since I started practicing witchcraft. I identify as pagan because I feel a connection to the universe that stirs my heart in a way that I can only define as "religious." Through that root, I find a power that I can tap into and use to shape and direct things in this world - magic.

In a quest to make paganism more palatable to the masses, not just magic but many things have been stripped from it. Skyclad practice is nearly non-existent. Attitudes toward sexuality have been whitewashed. The symbolic Great Rite ALMOST NEVER happens anymore and practicing it in truth is even more rare. Hell, I have even heard one person say, "We don't wear black robes because they give us too much negative publicity." Cakes and wine has turned into cakes and grape juice. (Yes, I know, I am talking from a completely Wica-based standpoint. That is the trad I was raised in and what I practice. I don't know enough about other pagan practices to make commentary on them, nor do I have a place to without being an active member of those practices.)

And what's left? A lame shadow of what the Craft once was. But hey, at least the general public isn't scared of you anymore... but what have you given up to get there?

I've made it a point to not go there. I teach magic first and foremost to my students, while introducing them to the structure and format we use. I leave it up to them to find their own connections to the gods, but help them in any way I can as they search. And most of all, I teach that the Craft is NOT NOT NOT for public display, NOT subject to public approval, and NOT to be talked about with those who don't care or understand - all out of a desire to keep it from being whitewashed and watered down any further.

And that's the way it should be done. I think it's a shame when it's whitewashed in the way you've described. I couldn't imagine giving up those elements from my own practice, just to fit in better with rather narrow views of what society should or shouldn't be there. I admire you for sticking with what you believe.