Recently Ivo Dominguez Jr published a thought provoking article where he discussed the lack of the literacy in magic in today's Pagans. While I found myself nodding in agreement with a lot of what he had to say (I've observed in the past that there is an increasing amount of emphasis on removing magic from Paganism because it makes Paganism less acceptable to the mainstream*), I also found his use of the word literacy problematic, and by extension it caused me to re-examine his article and some of my agreement with the article in a different light. As a result, I think it worthwhile to examine the concept of the literacy of magic, both in relationship to the word literacy and its variety of meanings, and also in context to the practice of magic vs the "literacy" of magic, which I'll argue are not one and the same (in part 2 of this series). In fact, part of the issue I have with the use of the word literacy is that conjures up the armchair magician, a person has read a lot of books on magic, but has done little, if anything, with that magical knowledge. I would locate the armchair magician on the opposite end of the illiterate Pagan (at least as that illiteracy applies to magic). However, as we'll see, it's simplistic to categorize anyone as literate or illiterate, because literacy itself is a loaded term.
I read a lot of blogs, go to a lot of conferences and festivals, teach a lot of workshops, and have lively discussions with friends related to all things Pagan and Magickal. Although I can say that ease of access to ideas through the internet, bookstores, and Pagan and Magickal events has increased awareness of many social issues, ideologies, religious and theological perspectives, and the vast amount of minutia related Pagan culture and fads, there is an increasing percentage of the Pagan community that is magickally illiterate and innumerate. I’m not saying that people are less serious, less devoted, or less committed to their path. Nor am I saying that the level of discourse has dropped, in fact in many ways it is much more sophisticated in exploring the development of Pagan culture. What I have noticed is that the technical end of things, magick theory, sacred sciences, and the like, are less well known. I've also noticed a trend towards focusing more exclusively on the lore and mythology of a specific people or a specific time at the expense of a generalized understanding of how magickal paths manifest in a variety of cultures and communities.
How to engage the reconstructionist / historical-based pagan and not get your feelings hurt:
Lesson 1: Learn to discern the differences between fact and opinion, history and UPG/experience.
You may not have realised that you were presenting a subjective statement as an objective one. Especially in the United States, the stress on this aspect of language arts in schools is often failing, but so if pop culture, to be frank.
This has been a busy time for your Village Witch...mostly because she keeps leaving the village and hitting the road.
I've only just returned from the Pagan Unity Festival in Burns, TN and am pondering the differences between festivals and conferences, since I was fortunate enough to be included in the Cherry Hill Conference several weeks ago.
All these gatherings. What draws us into these artificial communities? And are they really so artificial?...
The Magical Life of Oberon Zell
Interview by Natalie Zaman
When I attended the New York Witch-Fest a few Samhains ago, I was a little nervous about approaching the man who founded the Church of All Worlds, Green Egg Magazine and the Grey School of Wizardry (for those who believe that wizard schools ala Hogwarts are fantasy--think again!). For over 40 years, Oberon Zell has been a champion of paganism, learning, and magic, along with his--to use his words--beloved soul mate Morning Glory.
Hopefully I've come away with a little wisdom from my meeting with this extremely warm and personable wizard. Accomplishments are marvelous things, but it is the person who is important--the one who helps others and works actively to spread enlightenment and make the world a better place today....
Another confession: Instead of attacking De Occulta Philosophia, I'm going for the throat on Marsilio Ficino.
A few years ago, I came across a book called "Music in Renaissance Magic" by Gary Tomlinson. He focuses on the magic of a man named Marsilio Ficino, who was a priest and the doctor of Lorenzo de Medici. Ficino is somewhat contemporary to Agrippa in the way that they both translated documents from Greek into Latin, and then proceeded to create their own synthesis of learning from those experiences.
Ficino stood out to Tomlinson because he wrote magical music. None of that music exists; it has all been lost to time, as Ficino's De vita libri tres has been out of my reach through library (another long story) and is too expensive to purchase. Until now.
I am at a complete loss for what to write about. I didn't write anything in March and I'm a guilty guilter who guilts. True story. I've got 4 drafts, plenty of stock material on the old secret webpage, and here I am posting at night where no one will see my genius.
I realize that blogs are places where people bring their fears and opinions out into the open, not just studies, so I hope this one's a bit of both.
I am deathly afraid of contemplating the significance of Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia in terms of music and music theory. I know that there are solid free resources on the net that I can relatively trust and cross-reference. I have a book here at home, a sourcebook on Music and Magic, of some amazing excerpts from some of the earliest literature available, translated into modern English by an Occult-positive music professor. There is a man teaching at Yale who has studied the effects of Occult philosophy on one of the Italian Renaissance's greatest composers. Yet a third man has delved into the Occult-ed-ness of Arnold Schoenberg, the early 20th century MASTER. (He's really more of a god, but maybe we'll get into that later.)...
I am excited to be travelling to Columbia, SC today for "Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes", a symposium from Cherry Hill Seminary and USC. I'll be presenting my latest research on the border reivers and seeing some dear old friends (Holli Emore, Patti Wiggington et al) and meeting some dear new ones (Sara Amis and Elinor Predota et al). I expect to be restimulated and reinspired by the work of all the folks at this conference and will be grateful to listen to the cheeky wisdom of Ronald Hutton again.
Here's a link to the conference--