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January 24th, 2007


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11:48 am - Magic and some new DVD's . . . plus some storytelling
"Come, come to my house," reads one section in the Semitic language that is supposed to be the snake's mother speaking, trying to lure him out of the tomb. In another passage, the snake is addressed as if he is a lover with "Turn aside, O my beloved."
Classic, this text is, in terms of magical inscriptions. It may be the oldest text in a Semitic language, and, of course, it's magical.

Of course, the researchers are wild about its age and its connection with pre-Cannanite linguistics, which is all well and good, but it's magic, Baby!

Modern magic isn't like its grandaddy. It's been reformatted in a lot of ways to reflect that moderns don't really feel like they can (or, perhaps, should) affect reality in amazing ways. The ancient world's magic involved such creative things as masquarading as Moses (the greatest of Jewish magicians), pretending to be archangels and commanding the legions of lower-order angels to do piddly tasks, and making women "burn until they come to me." In the above example, the magician masquarades as the snake's mother and then as his lover in order to cause the snakes to leave.

In all, ancient magicians sure talked a lot of shit.

Modern magicians don't really do this. We tend to focus on change on a really small scale (generally within ourselves) or a really amazingly huge scale (e.g. changing the world so that it's got more "positive energy" floating around in it). Our results are not measurable, nor are they often testable. We avoid using magic to find things, obtain love (all the ethical "love spells are bad" dogma is amazing), and hurl fireballs down the street.

We talk in very . . . uncertain terms about what our magic can do, or will do. If asked to measure our success, we often don't produce a lot of tangible evidence, or we dodge the question entirely by saying, "Magic is too important to be used for experimentation."

I sometimes wonder: is this because we have little faith in our magic, or because we are afraid of what might happen if it actually worked?

Or is modern magic just not as strong, useful, or (possibly) egotistical as ancient magic? Which then begs the question: is it then inferior or superior to ancient magic, and can we even make that comparison bear fruit?

On a side note, after finishing off the Alias TV series (and feeling like it was rushed and anti-climatic for the most part), I have moved on. With a gift certificate to Amazon.Com, I have the opportunity to get myself hooked on a new series that is much shorter and yet has far more promise than Jennifer Garner in lingerie. . . The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

I have also ordered Jack of All Trades and expect to enjoy that just as thoroughly. It is, after all, Bruce. And Bruce, as we all know, could give God a run for his money in an election.


January 27, 2005, was the last "Rabbit Hole Day" on LiveJournal. My post on that date in 2005 is still fun for me to read. I wonder if it will happen again this Saturday?
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: curiouscurious
Current Music: "Nautical Wheelers", -JB

(27 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:chronarchy
Date:January 24th, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)

Re: Ancient/Modern Magic

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*nods* the Tacere rule is an interesting development, since most of the power of a curse is in letting someone know you cast it on them, after all. What good does it do to cast a spell on a person who's supposed to suffer and not tell them? :)

(btw, "tacere": I like it, but I've never heard it referred to like that before. Yours, or am I just not reading the right occult publications?)

And I agree about the subjectivity. But if it's easier to make ourselves lovable, then why do we tell people that love magic is wrong? Why not just say, "internal magical change is easier," and let those who want to work harder do just that? ("we" being the great Pagan Publishing Czars, I suppose. . . and those of us who repeat their words.)

Also, I'm not sure that subjectivity makes us more likely to ignore external change and magical influence. It is entirely possible, I suppose, that any external angel summoning is really just an internal paradigm shift, but I'm not sure that's an overly useful way of looking at it, either, because we still don't do it all that often.

I have a feeling that we're all talkin' bullshit, though :)
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From:chronarchy
Date:January 24th, 2007 05:39 pm (UTC)

Re: Ancient/Modern Magic

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Yes, I've noticed that, too :) To which I reply: "A confused student is more likely to purchase your next book than one who completely 'gets' it." :)

And yeah, I think you're very right about the Great Occult Secrets.

And I will further agree that yes, telling someone you've cast a hex on them is about all you really need to do. I suppose we could look at it as "results without the ethical quandary."
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From:nontacitare
Date:January 25th, 2007 01:47 am (UTC)

Re: Ancient/Modern Magic

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I think it's that different authors, even if published by the same company, sometimes radically disagree with one another.

As long as it's not the same author saying in one chapter, "Don't do love spells," and then in the next chapter showing how to do them, it actually makes sense to me.
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From:unnamed525
Date:January 24th, 2007 05:03 pm (UTC)
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I think we're under a lot of educational conditioning which tells us that magic not only doesn't, but can't, work. This is why I feel studying philosophy (and logic) is important for the modern magician; there are conceptual systems which are consistent with both modern science and the possibility of directly affecting reality with ones will (probablistic causation and non-locality, to paint with a broad brush).
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From:chronarchy
Date:January 24th, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC)
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You may be correct there. But then, I think about this and I say, "But there have been doubters throughout the history of magic: those who said it doesn't work. Why only now have we let it overcome us?"

Of course, I imagine that their doubts were not as strong as what we're conditioned for today, but I think that the ancient magician faced a good amount of doubt.

I'm interested in this line of thought, though. From here, which is a good starting point, where do we go? How do we get back to speaking of magic as working, real, and "good for the piddly shit"? And then, of course, is the question: should we get back to that?
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From:unnamed525
Date:March 10th, 2007 12:17 am (UTC)
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Isn't magic just the use of ones will to alter reality? Don't we already use our will to do "piddly shit", such as bring the cup of coffee to my lips?
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From:chronarchy
Date:January 24th, 2007 05:36 pm (UTC)
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In his conception of angels, I'd agree. Under the older conception, though, where angels are things created without free will and with a prime directive of "serve", they won't question it. Goetia, too, is all about presenting credentials and establishing yourself as the person (or, in this case, angel) you're imitating.

I tend to think of the Goetic angels as the stereotypical "perfect soldier" who always follows his orders without question. I imagine them like a sort of cosmic "Light Brigade": Their's was not to question why / their's was but to do and die.

I don't think that the Goetic angel will say, "Hey, wait: your picture doesn't match your ID!"
(Deleted comment)
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From:chronarchy
Date:January 24th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)

Re: "They have to do what they're told, if they're told by someone with the right access codes"

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Indeed, that is the case :)
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From:singingwren
Date:January 24th, 2007 05:58 pm (UTC)
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I think we have new "magics" now that fulfill the cultural need for what old magic gave us. You say we are missing the drama, the ego, the ridiculous extremity, and the blatant qualities of old magic... and I agree. But perhaps this because we have Hollywood. We have science and fog machines and vibrating toys. We don't really need to work magic as epic as our ancestors because we can create similar effects, and therefore we are less inclined to turn toward the mystic when we can turn to everyday life.

You wanna boss around piddly cherubims? Get some interns, that's why we were made. You wanna be god? Log on the internet and do whatever you will. You can woo a girl by directly seducing her now, something forbidden in many ancient cultures, or you can buy all the porn and sex-toys you want in between your trips to the bar. Love magic will always be a part of our culture, but the drama it had in the old days seems much more unnecessary now.

Nowadays we don't need very much healing because we have medicine enhanced by plastic and science. We use Wikipedia and Google instead of imps and lesser demons when we want information. We have unparalleled mobility, which allows to get wherever we want as quickly as we want, and thus if we use magic for transport, haste, or accomplishing things far away in our name it is highly unlikely we'll feel the need to draft a spirit. Plus we already have e-mail and cell-phones that let us communicate with those who aren't with us, often with as much anonymity as we desire.

Food and beverages are not difficult to obtain, nor are other peoples' identities. Vast amounts of wealth can be accumulated just as quickly and dishonestly through drug-dealing, gambling, shady business practices, etc. And the list goes on and on... our society is already hyperproductive and full of glamour and facades as is.

That's not to say *I* ain't a big fan of the old stuff, as you know... it's just my theory as to why our magic seems to be so small-scale and subtle these days.

I have the personal problem of hardwired doubt in my abilities instilled since birth, but rest assured no amount of doubt in the world could have held me back were I in Greece long long ago.
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From:rfunk
Date:January 24th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
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I have it on good authority that Wikipedia and Google actually operate using imps and lesser demons.

Or at least daemons.
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From:ns_kumiho
Date:January 24th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
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Jack of All Trades is on DVD? I loved that show! =P
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From:chronarchy
Date:January 24th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
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Yep. And for much cheaper than Brisco County Jr. :)
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From:viedansante
Date:January 24th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
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I loved both Jack of All Trades and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

I saw both of them in early morning Saturday TV, if I remember correctly, on the USA network.

I think.

Anyway, excellent choices. I still haven't seen season 5 of Alias. I finished out season 4 with excitement, and saw one episode of season 5 and felt lackluster about it.

Maybe I'll just watch the Sark episodes from season 5 and leave it at that.
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From:chronarchy
Date:January 24th, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)
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That's a good plan, but he's in a number of them, so you'll see most of S 5 anyway. :)

I think about you when he comes on. If I could peg a more "I know who needs a night alone with him", I'd be pretty popular.
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From:qorinda
Date:January 24th, 2007 07:11 pm (UTC)
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Hm. I use magic frequently. I have even done love spells (although the results were far different from what I thought I was doing). And I know that there are folks in the magicians guild who have done complete ADF rituals, including some potent magical workings with astounding and measurable results.

My partner also does magic even more frequently than I do. He has a room that he calls his "ritual room" in which he does his magic. He tends to use it to affect his immediate world, and I notice he usually achieves his intentions rather quickly.

Perhaps some people just don't take seriously enough.
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From:nontacitare
Date:January 25th, 2007 02:53 am (UTC)
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Or is modern magic just not as strong, useful, or (possibly) egotistical as ancient magic? Which then begs the question: is it then inferior or superior to ancient magic, and can we even make that comparison bear fruit?

I think you're talking about two very different questions: What are the limits of magic? and What can or should we do with magic? In terms of what is done with magic today vs. what was done (or what was considered ethical) with magic, I think we need to look at the different values in the respective societies in question. In the example of the coercive love spell, which most (though not all) modern Neo-Pagans would consider unethical, magicians of the ancient world lived in cultures that accepted slavery as the norm. Some people had the right to control other people, and some people were meant to be controlled. With that mindset, making a woman "burn until she comes to you" would not be that different that simply buying a woman. In today's society, we view slavery as anathema, and so forcing someone to fall in love with you against their will using magical means is seen as a violation of their free will.

I think the mistrust of love spells has more to do with respect for others than with a lack of faith in magic.

If you're interested, this is a very good essay on a Wiccan approach to magical ethics, which can to a certain extent apply to the greater Pagan community. I especially like the idea of coercive vs. non-coercive magic, rather than good vs. evil, or black vs. white.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos113.htm

Just muddying the waters with my two cents. ;-)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 25th, 2007 04:00 am (UTC)
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In one of my late night thought streams, just last night actually, I wondered if that's because of the different world our brains grow up in now, and the different paths they prune while we go through adolescence?
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From:styskel
Date:January 25th, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)
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Whoops, that was me not realizing I wasn't logged in.
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From:nontacitare
Date:January 25th, 2007 02:19 pm (UTC)
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That makes a lot of sense.
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From:ariansdreams
Date:January 25th, 2007 05:21 pm (UTC)
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I think it's all about faith. Magic, that is. It's all psychological. Of course it "works" if you think it does. We create our own realities. :)

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