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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in magical practice
Some Musings on Wiccanate Privilege, Words, and Pop Culture Magic

At Pantheacon I attended a discussion about Wiccanate Privilege (See this post by Lupus for an accurate overview of the discussion). I was curious about this term because it had been applied to me in a post that Ivo Dominguez had written about the Literacy of Magic. The person who applied it, Ruadhan McElroy commented on a comment I made about how I felt the Pagan community was divorcing itself from Magic in order to achieve mainstream acceptance. He made the point that such a statement displayed a level of privilege and assumption about magic's place in a given Pagan spiritual practice. Another commenter also pointed this out in a different way and in subsequent comments I came to better understand the perspective of magic as an optional practice because its simply not central to the given spiritual practices of a particular spiritual tradition.  I'll admit that when I think of Paganism, I typically associate magic with Paganism and with anything that might fall under the rather broad umbrella of Paganism (which as I'll discuss later points to a distinct problem). I think that Ruadhan made an accurate point, though at the time it blew my mind that the practice of Magic could be perceived as a form of privilege (mainly because my own experiences in mainstream culture, but in this case Ruadahan is referring to the Pagan subculture, and in that context it makes sense).

The conversation that occurred at Pantheacon helped me further understand this aspect of privilege, and where Ruadhan is coming from. Ruadhan also wrote a post about Wiccanate Privilege and noted the following:

Within the pagan community, the “Generic Popular Wicca-based Neopaganism” (henceforth “Wiccanate paganism”; Traditional Wicca, such as BT/Gardnerian or Alexandrian, is “Wicca”) is the assumed default. During the “pagan identity crisis” that’s been cycling the pagan blogosphere every few months since 2010, I’ve seen several people comment not only as non-Wiccanates who lament this, but as Wiccanate pagans unaware of their own privilege and insisting that we’re all united because, as far as they’re concerned, “we all share a history with Wicca” (an exact quote I’ve seen from several people).

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  • Nova
    Nova says #
    Sorry but I suck at double checking my own post. Since there isn't an edit button... Hmm? So hard to ask? I've honestly had it w
  • Nova
    Nova says #
    I'v honestly had it with the idea of privilege. priv·i·lege ˈpriv(ə)lij/ noun 1. a special right, advantage, or immunity granted
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    I have found being a member of a minority-within-a-minority very instructive. I'm a (mostly) middle-class white guy, one who has

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I had been slowly acquiring archery equipment since Christmas.   While Katniss was admittedly and unashamedly the tipping point for me, there have been others.  Buffy.  The Amazons from Xena.  I wanted to know what it would be like to be able to kick ass.

Buffy is not interested in excuses.

I took my intro to Archery class and it was a stark moment of clarity for me.  Not in a I AM MOMENTS AWAY FROM KILLING AND EATING MY OWN PREY AND BECOMING A PREDATOR sort of way.  More in a, girl this is going to be a looooooong journey. Our class was taught by a perky geeky girl wearing a red shirt with the Chinese blessing cat playing with string.  She was relentlessly upbeat while she drilled safety issues into us, all the while managing to be incredibly assertive.  Her calm demeanor had a steel undertone from being Olympic trained in competitive archery and the Vice President of the NJ Archery association.  She would decide who would be allowed range privileges.  She was a little younger than me and I was deathly afraid of her.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Your instructor's whispered words were a balm to my traditionalist soul. I was a devotee of the recurve bow going as far back as
  • Arwen Lynch
    Arwen Lynch says #
    I thoroughly enjoyed this. And your point about priorities? Yeah, ouch. I needed to hear that. Don't know that I WANTED to.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

“Liminal” is a concept that Pagans and especially Witches use frequently, but it’s not so well known to non-Pagans, at least not by name. A liminal time or space is the transition between one thing and something else. This time of year is an example of liminality in the overculture. How do you experience that? Do you use it for magic?

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  • Cynthia Savage
    Cynthia Savage says #
    Liminal time occurs daily-one doesn't need to wait until the end of the calendar year! The Celts of Ireland and Scotland (the Scot
  • Literata
    Literata says #
    It is wonderful when the cycles coincide like that!
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Lovely this time of liminality and how it magnifies our magic. I am particularly excited by the overlap of the lunar cycle and th

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Literacy of Magic Pt 2

In my previous post, I explained how literacy is an institution, and how a literacy of magic would be an extension of the institution of literacy, in the sense that a given institution typically determines who is or isn't included in the institution and also establishes what constitutes institutional legitimate actions vs actions which don't fit into the institution. I explored why I felt literacy is a loaded term and why it can be problematic to apply it as a concept to magic. I also explored how trying to define magic as a literacy would inevitably end up excluding certain people or practices because of the institutional aspects of literacy. In the 2nd post to this series, I'm going to explain why the literacy of magic isn't the same as the practice of magic and why it is more useful to examine magic as a practice instead of as a literacy.

Literacy, as it applies to magic, would seem to deal with the ability to read, write, and design magic, which could include among other things the ability to read, write, and design rituals, spells, and other associated magical activities. However, once again we are left with a question: Who determines what the literacy of magic is, and what is their agenda for defining it in the way they have? An additional question that is useful to ask is: "What activities, techniques, etc., are left out of the literacy of magic?" I'd argue that a variety of activities, techniques, etc., are left out if we look at magic as a form of literacy. Now some people might argue that I'm being overly literal by exploring magic as a form of literacy and perceiving it in terms of what are considered traditional activities of literacy, but I think that we need to be particular about the words that we use when trying to define a concepts such as magic or literacy. When we conflate these two concepts together without being particular, what results is a lot of theoretical confusion and armchair arguments that do little to substantively advance the discipline of magic.

Thus I don't think it's useful to define magic as a literacy. If anything, I find literacy to be too confining and limiting in terms of describing what magic seems to be or what one can possibly do with it. At best a literacy of magic can describe certain activities and how those activities are performed, but even in that case the above questions should be asked.

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  • Henry Buchy
    Henry Buchy says #
    I didn't get the idea that Ivo intended to define magic as a "literacy" and not a practice. What he did do is draw an analogy usin
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hello Henry, At this point i'm not really Ivo's article anymore, but just taking this into my direction. His article was a good p

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Literacy of Magic Pt 1

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.

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  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr says #
    Just as a clarification, I did not say that the Western Magickal Tradition was the only source for trusted systems, only that it w
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hi Ivo, Thanks for the clarification. I really appreciate that you've written that post, because it's gotten some much needed con
  • Jay Logan
    Jay Logan says #
    I would hazard a guess that it is because we are talking about different kinds of magic. To take a simplified approach, you can d
Cultural exchange vs cultural appropriation

Recently I attended a workshop run by R. J. Stewart and he related a story of a discussion he had with a Lakota Shaman. Something she said to him was that she didn't want white people trying to take the practices of her people and make them their own, but rather that she wanted them to find their own practices and then meet with people from other practices and share what each of them was doing. When I heard that story, it made me think that something which is really important for all of us is cultural exchange, where we appreciate what a given person (and his/her culture) brings to the table without feeling the need to steal from it. Instead that appreciation allows us to learn from the other person and reflect on our own practices in context to what we've learned. We engage in a cultural exchange, so that everyone can benefit from what is learned.

Cultural appropriation is the wholesale stealing of a given culture's practices. The reason people do it may be a result of feeling disconnected from the culture they are in or identifying spirituality as only residing in the cultural practices of the culture they are appropriating from. Regardless of what the reason is, such appropriation ultimately creates a mockery of the original practices, because while the person might steal away the practices, s/he can never truly know the culture. S/he is always interpreting the other culture through the lens of his/her own culture.

One of the grey areas in this kind of discussions involves the choice to study a given culture's practices. I likely fit into that gray area. I study Tibetan and Taoist meditation practices. I am not of the cultures where those practices originated and I don't try to be. I study those practices to learn from them and implement them in my life, without trying to identify with the culture. It's a grey area, because I'm not trying to appropriate the overall culture and pretend to be something I'm not, but I am learning and practicing from that culture's spiritual practices. However, I think that such learning can fit into cultural exchange if it is done respectfully and with an intention to respect the original culture without trying to become part of it.

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  • Jennifer Tindell
    Jennifer Tindell says #
    Thanks, this is very good.
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    The story I tell about cultural appropriation is that I once approached a Native American practitioner and inquired about learning
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hi Carl, Thank you for commenting. I wrote an essay for that anthology. It's a good anthology, and some of the other ones that we

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
What Happens when your magic fails?

What happens when your magic fails?

This is a question most magicians and pagans never want to ask or answer, but I think it's a question we need to ask and answer. It's a question that likely makes you squirm just a little bit, because it raises the spectre of "What if all this is just in my head?" The thought that it's all just in your head and that perhaps what you're doing is just a deluded fantasy is hard to face. It can cause you to feel some real doubt about magic and whether its real or just make believe. I think feeling such doubt can actually be healthy, because it teaches you to question critically and carefully what you're doing and how you're doing it. It also teaches you not to take magic for granted. If you assume that your workings will always be successful, you may be shocked when a working isn't successful. By cultivating just a bit of critical awareness, you can look through your magical workings and figure out why it didn't work as well as what you can do to improve your workings.

A good place to start is to actually determine how many of your magical workings have been successful. See if you can calculate a percentage and then determine what types of workings they were. Was it practical magic to resolve a problem, or was it a working to make contact with a deity or inner contact?  Was it some other type of magical working? So for example, perhaps you calculate that 90% of your magical workings in the last year have been successful and you realize that a quarter of the workings were practical magic and the rest were devotional, theurgic workings. Once you have estimated the successful number of magical workings, then you can look at the remaining magical workings, the ones that didn't work and determine what type they were. You might discover that 75% of the workings that weren't successful were practical magic workings. What this will tell you then is what you need to work in your magical practice. It shouldn't be hard to determine these figures if you are keeping a magical record of some type and diligently updating it.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Very nice, Taylor. Reminds me of the end of Little Big Man, when Chief Dan George says to Dustin Hoffman, "Sometimes the magic wor
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Thank you Ted. I think it's worthwhile to explore why it didn't work. A failure can teach you a lot, if you are pen to learning fr
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Point well taken, Taylor; I think you are right. At various times in my life I have been guilty of all 7 of the mistakes you have

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Why Of Within

 

This is the fourth and last in my series on meditation and contemplative practices in Paganism.  If you have not read the previous parts, I encourage you to do so. 

 

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Lovely, clear yet poetic essay. Thank you sincerely.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
How to experiment with magic

I've experimented with magic from almost the beginning of my magical practice. When I've tried techniques that other people have developed, I've always had one question in the back of my mind: How can I improve on this technique? Even with my own techniques, I am always interested in experimenting with them and improving on how the process of magic works. I thought it might be interesting to share on here how I experiment with magic and how you can, in turn, also experiment with magic.

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